While virtual reality is making its consumer debut thanks to Facebook, HTC, Sony, Google and Samsung, mixed reality is still focused on the lucrative enterprise market. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) HoloLens Developer Edition launched last year for $3,000 to enterprise companies and developers. Microsoft has also released a $5,000 HoloLens Commercial Edition, which includes added security and device management, as well as a warranty.
The mixed reality headset blends digital objects with the real world to introduce new ways to do everything from training personnel to performing surgeries to replicating work on Mars.
The headset allows users to see the real world and its augmented glasses brings the digital world to life on top of it. This has opened up new ways to think about working. For example, a stock broker can virtually add a dozen or more screens to his work space without requiring his company to invest in all of that hardware. Here’s a look at six ways companies are already embracing Microsoft HoloLens and its Windows Holographic software.
NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
NASA has targeted the 2030s as the decade to send astronauts to Mars. However, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have made it possible for astronauts to explore the Red Planet today while still grounded on Earth. HoloLens is being used by scientists to explore the terrain of Mars to help map out the Curiosity Mars rover’s operations. It puts researchers on the surface of the planet, where they can get an up-close-and-personal view of the rock formations and other features.
Even ordinary people can experience the Red Planet through the Destination: Mars exhibit at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. The HoloLens transports guests to Mars with Buzz Aldrin serving as a holographic tour guide.
Case Western Reserve University
The Case Western Reserve School of Medicine is preparing for the future of medical education. The school is working with the Cleveland Clinic to build out a HoloLens anatomy curriculum in tandem with a new Health Education Campus, both of which are scheduled to launch in the summer of 2019. HoloAnatomy replaces cadavers and expensive equipment and allows students to explore the human body through mixed reality.
The curriculum will allow students to experience a beating heart and see how the blood flows to the brain in a brand new way. The HoloLens also invites better retention, since aspiring doctors will be experiencing these things rather than memorizing words from a textbook.
Around the globe there are approximately 12 million elevators transporting over a billion people each day, and there’s nothing worse than a broken elevator, especially if you’re in it. Thyssenkrupp Elevators is testing HoloLens to help its 24,000 elevator service engineers do their jobs safer and more efficiently. They’re using the Skype functionality of HoloLens to be hands free while on the job and sharing holographic instructions between users. Use of HoloLens has reduced the average length of Thyssenkrupp’s service calls by four times. The technology has also improved response time, increased efficiency, raised elevator uptimes and sped up service interventions to ensure mobility equipment is always running.
The movie studio behind flicks like Warcraft, Pacific Rim and Godzilla was early to explore virtual reality and now has expanded to mixed reality. Legendary is using Microsoft HoloLens as a new storytelling tool for creators as well as a new way for fans to interact with characters from the big screen. For the world premiere of Warcraft in Hollywood, fans got to meet Orgrim Doomhammer as a hologram on HoloLens. The Orc was brought to life in the film by Robert Kazinsky through the magic of performance capture and CGI. And Legendary captured the character from every angle to create a life-sized hologram so fans could come face-to-face with the giant Orc.
In a previous article we highlighted Autodesk, a leading provider of 3D modeling software and also 3D printing software. Autodesk often highlights their newer Fusion 360 program as a means of bringing 3D modeling software to the cloud. That very software program could be the killer app for the Microsoft HoloLens:
Both Microsoft and Autodesk have engineers working together to figure out how to capitalize on all the potential of the Holoens headset: From the Autodesk PR department:
We first started working with Microsoft in 2014 and kicked off a joint project called ‘FreeForm’ to build a proof of concept with Fusion 360 and HoloLens. The goal was to explore what could be possible for the everyday designer/engineer using HoloLens.
Here’s the official press release from Microsoft announcing the collaboration between the two companies.
Customers can now see what their kitchen renovation will look like full-sized and in holographic form, thanks to Lowe’s Innovation Labs. A handful of Lowe’s stores around the country are using HoloLens in a pilot program that allows customers to plan out the kitchen of their dreams in an interactive mixed reality environment. Lowe’s has set up a showroom kitchen that blends physical objects with digital holograms. Choosing different cabinetry, hardware, counter tops, and appliances is as simple as waving your hands to drag and drop the pieces for the perfect kitchen.
Aside from the 6 companies we’ve talked about in this article, there are many other companies developing on the Microsoft HoloLens platform. Automakers such as Volvo, Saab, and Volkswagen are all exploring various uses for the HoloLens. Airbus and Japan Airlines are doing the same thing in the aerospace industry. Architecture is an obvious application, and firms like BlueScope Buildings and Trimble are using the HoloLens for applications in design and construction. Microsoft has done a great job of making sure they have strong commercial partnerships which will ensure they get the kinks worked out as quick as possible. Investors should note that Microsoft is a $492 billion company. While the Microsoft HoloLens looks promising, it’s going to take a lot to move the needle with a company this large.
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