HoloLens: Let’s build a whole new world together

HoloLens at SSW - let's build a whole new world

It’s been 2 years since Microsoft announced the HoloLens, a holographic computer and head-mounted display, but the highly-anticipated technology has been thrilling us in films and books for decades.

Now that it’s finally arrived, SSW is delighted to be among the first in Australia to leverage this ground breaking technology. With lateral thinking and good software development, I look forward to improving reality for many customers.

Real world uses for HoloLens

Some look at HoloLens and assume it’s a gaming device, and while it does run some fun games that my kids play, it is built for businesses. With its capacity for object recognition through Cortana and ability to show designs or concepts in the user’s environment, we see enormous potential for commercial applications targeted at both customers and employees. HoloLens is interesting across a variety of industries such as transport, health, logistics, architecture, manufacturing, design, retail, education and more.

SSW customers in Australia are already thinking about it, and they’ve called us to explore if their ideas are transferable to the HoloLens.  Their industries have ranged from asset management to a manufacturer of flying devices (and they’re not drones).

Real world uses for HoloLens: case study #1

Around the world, lots of companies have talked about what they’re developing. Microsoft worked with ThyssenKrupp, a steel fabrication company best known for their lifts and escalators, to develop a HoloLens app to measure, design and produce custom-built stair lifts for the home. ThyssenKrupp’s consultants had a very manual way of measuring up a staircase. They also took a long time to get the prices back from manufacturing to the customer. Finally, the customer could only guess what their new stair lift would look like.

The new HoloLens app solves multiple problems. It allows the consultants to have automatic measuring of the staircase, making the digital data capturing faster and more accurate. The measurements are then sent directly to Azure (the Microsoft cloud) and onto their accounts and manufacturing teams in real time. As a result, prices can come back to the customer quickly, and upon approval, their processing and manufacturing times are now up to 4 times faster! The icing on the cake is the customer can now put the headset on and walk around in the space and visualize what their new chair lift will look like.

 

Video: HoloLens has revolutionised ThyssenKrupp’s home stair lift measuring and fabrication processes

Real world uses for HoloLens: case study #2

In another, simpler scenario, the HoloLens is used to assist in car maintenance. If a mechanic is not familiar with a certain type of car, or is just a trainee, a lot of time is wasted and errors can be made, and obviously, when you’re got grease all over your hands, it’s not easy to use a computer to look up availability of parts. This HoloLens app identifies objects in the car, such as the wheel parts, shows the maintenance history, and saves them looking up the user manual by guiding them along the repair process. Not shown in the video, but obviously could be done, is identifying something out of the ordinary, such as an incorrect nut being used or damage such as a bent wheel shaft.

Video: See how object recognition makes car maintenance a breeze

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality vs. Mixed Reality

The HoloLens is the most special but let me explain the 3 reality categories and why I love the HoloLens wearable headset.

#1 – Virtual reality (like the Rift and HTC Vive)
The Rift is the most common VR device, and is loved by my kids. Everything in the visual environment is virtual/computer generated, with no input from the “real world”. It can be very believable but because the users’ visual experience doesn’t align with what their sense of balance is telling them, it can leave the user dizzy and nauseated. Virtual reality is a completely immersive environment, generally everything the user sees is computer generated.

Video: VR Solutions should be used sitting down – a closed VR environment can be dangerous

Cardboard is super cool because it makes VR cheap. It’s a VR device primarily for entertainment and information consumption. I really think it will ignite imaginations, which will be useful for HoloLens scenarios, but the primary will be to do things like play games, tour cities, and watch videos.

Google Cardboard is a form of VR

Figure: Google Cardboard lets your turn your mobile phone into a VR device

#2 – Augmented reality (like apps like Pokémon GO)
When you see kids using their mobile phones to catch Pokémon, they’re seeing reality augmented with computer generated content. Obviously this lacks lacks spatial mapping, so there’s less interaction between the 2 environments. Furthermore, this is often viewed through a smartphone so you’re looking at it on a 2-dimensional flat screen, not your 3D environment.

Pokemon GO is an example of Augmented Reality

Figure: The incredibly popular Pokémon GO is an example of an Augmented Reality app

#3 – Mixed reality (like HoloLens)
HoloLens is unique on the market because it isn’t just VR or AR – it’s Mixed Reality (MR), which is like augmented reality on steroids. I believe businesses will prefer this solution since it overlays the desired digital content onto their physical reality. Having spatial mapping lets the user interact with their real-world environment. All our customers have had a good experience and it doesn’t cause motion sickness the way the “closed” virtual reality models do. (I remember the first VR toy we played with years ago left half the SSW guys feeling nauseated – for many that was the first and last go of the Rift!)

Development environment:

Most HoloLens apps are written in Unity 3D and coded in C# using Visual Studio. There are people who use Direct3D but that’s starting to get “heavy”, and is only really necessary when programming something with intensive graphics.

You can see more on how HoloLens development is done with Stephen Carter’s SSW TV video, HoloLens – A World Where Anything is Possible.

Come try it yourself

HoloLens is a game changer that’s going to allow us to visualize and interact with information in ways that we haven’t even imagined yet.

If you’re a business leader who wants to take advantage of this tech and make a real difference, we’d love to meet you. We’re holding free, personalized HoloLens experience sessions, running in July in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.

Dates:
Monday 24th July – running at Microsoft Brisbane
Wednesday 26th July – running at the SSW Chapel in Sydney
Monday 31st July – running at Microsoft Melbourne

See you there…⭐⭐Book Now ⭐⭐