by Mara Ortner
Augmented, virtual or maybe mixed reality? Three terms that most of us have heard or read about. When you scratch beneath the surface, however, it quickly becomes clear that there is a great deal of uncertainty about what exactly they are. But more importantly, there is a lack of understanding about how these technologies can be leveraged to the benefit of businesses.
Let’s start with augmented reality, which we understand as being a computer-generated extension of the real world with digital content, which could be virtual arrows as markers, instructions and also three-dimensional CAD models of a machine that appear in the user’s field of vision, supplementing the real world. This can be achieved through the use of smart glasses, but also with smartphones.
In contrast, virtual reality is a technology that fully immerses users into a digital three-dimensional world when they use VR glasses and applications.
The expression “mixed reality” is more of a generic term that covers the entire spectrum of augmented and virtual reality technologies, including their intermediate forms.
Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 is one of the most sought after smart headsets for professional use in industrial environments. They are classified as augmented reality glasses, but are often referred to as mixed reality headsets due to the wide range of possible use cases, four of which are emerging as significant trends:
A machine fails and technical support is off-site or on call? It can be hours or even days until the issue is resolved. If the machine is at an international site and specialists are all based in another country, we could be talking about weeks before help arrives. The time lost can be directly translated into costs incurred waiting for the issue to be resolved.
The HoloLens 2 is the perfect solution in this situation. Using the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist application, specialists can be brought in for support at any time from anywhere. Put on HoloLens 2, launch Remote Assist, call an expert from the list of contacts and that’s it!
During the video call, the expert can see exactly what the person wearing the HoloLens can see. This allows them to draw virtual arrows or circles around areas of concern, give useful instructions and share additional information as a PDF if required. This file can be placed by the user in their field of vision. To document what’s happened, it’s also possible to take a photo before troubleshooting. Remote assistance is the number one way businesses can benefit from HoloLens as it’s not only easy to use, but also helps save costs that would otherwise be incurred by production downtimes and travel expenses.
Starting up a new production line? Onboarding new employees? Training the trainees? All three have one thing in common—they need some kind of manual that can be given out to the employees and/or an actual trainer. In many companies, this is currently a passive process and not very interactive for the training participants due to a lack of time and resources. The result is ineffective learning as it cannot take place directly at the machinery itself.
Leveraging HoloLens 2 with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides is a great way of making training courses more interactive while still providing detailed instructions, and there’s no need for another person to be involved. Step-by-step instructions are displayed as a virtual information field in the training participant’s field of vision. They are able to keep their hands free so that they can actually do what they are instructed to. Instead of wasting time flicking through user manuals, the virtual instructions can be controlled using eye contact, so you can move on to the next step without having to put everything down to turn the page.
How can sales staff and machinery/site planners present their plans to customers or supervisors without them having to use their imagination to picture what the future could look like? As decision makers aren’t necessarily confronted with huge amounts of details in their everyday lives, it is not easy for them to think in terms of spatial models. As a result, their judgement can be clouded because their imaginations won’t let them see what’s on offer.
To overcome this challenge right from the get-go, HoloLens 2 offers a simple solution when combined with the 3D Viewer application. Using HoloLens, decision makers can view life-sized virtual 3D models, even right where the real thing is to be deployed. This facilitates visualisation and provides all parties with tangible information that they can discuss, and ultimately enables better planning security and decision-making.
The workplace of the future. Want your dispersed teams to feel like they are close together? Seems unrealistic at first. Two years into a pandemic, we may now know that we can all work from home and stay in touch with our colleagues at the same time, but we’ve also learned that a 2D video stream is not the same as sitting together in a meeting room, sharing a joke and collaborating in the same space.
But what about if we could meet as avatars in a (virtual) space, move around in it and present, brainstorm or even discuss virtual product prototypes?
It seems quite futuristic, but it’s already possible thanks to HoloLens 2 and Microsoft Mesh. Put your headset on, enter the virtual meeting room and greet your colleagues with a handshake. And best of all, people can tell from your avatar if you’re checking your e-mail or phubbing during the meeting.
The mixed reality HoloLens 2 headset can be used in a wide variety of ways and across various roles and departments. It’s in no way something that is purely used to make an organisation look modern. In fact, it’s much more about actual benefits, increased efficiency and cost savings. Anyone who wants to start using this new technology only has one question to answer—which application should we start with?
Interested in finding out more about HoloLens 2? Get in touch for a non-binding consultation!