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Microsoft HoloLens eyes enterprise adoption amid crowded field

Clint Boulton | Oct. 17, 2016
Microsoft is positioning its HoloLens augmented reality headset for businesses, but analysts say it must clear hurdles such as cost, technical and competitive challenges.

Microsoft has enlisted the likes of Volvo, Lowes, Japan Airlines and ThyssenKrupp to test its HoloLens augmented reality (AR) headset, underscoring the software giant’s early success in wooing enterprises. Given Microsoft's prowess in fostering dominant platforms such as Windows and Office and its global reach you could argue that the software giant has the best shot at establishing the enterprise standard in AR.

Gartner analyst Brian Blau, who tracks the AR/VR market, is taking a cautious view. He says that while Microsoft’s clout in business software give it an advantage it’s too early to proclaim a leader. Microsoft’s AR device, currently available to developers and businesses, costs $3,000, has some technical limitations and faces competition from a number of tech heavyweights that are building wearable AR and virtual reality ecosystems.

volvo hololens

Volvo sees a day when consumers will use Microsoft HoloLens to customize their cars in a virtual showroom.

HoloLens, which vies with Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear, Sony Playstation VR and dozens of others in the high-stakes market for immersive headsets, uses cameras, air gestures, gaze, voice, and sound to navigate holograms that adapt to the physical surroundings, enabling people to access information and complete tasks hands-free.

hololens thyssenkrupp

Thyssenkrupp technicians access Skype on HoloLens to call subject matter experts and share holographic instructions.

HoloLens lures many business takers

Attracted by the opportunity to enable employees to access information and complete tasks hands-free, several companies are building HoloLens applications. A handful include the following:

  • Thyssenkrupp elevator service technicians use HoloLens to triage service requests ahead of maintenance visits and getting hands-free remote guidance when on site. Technicians access Skype on HoloLens to call subject matter experts and share holographic instructions In trials, Thyssenkrupp says HoloLens has reduced the average length of it service calls by four times.
  • Volvo Cars envisions consumers using HoloLens to customize their cars in a virtual showroom. “Imagine using mixed reality to choose the type of car you want – to explore the colors, rims, or get a better understanding of the features, services and options available,” says Björn Annwall, Volvo’s senior vice president of marketing, sales and service. He says that HoloLens could open up new sales channels by allowing dealers to take a car configurator to pop-up stores or malls.
  • Japan Airlines (JAL) has developed two proof-of-concept programs to train engine mechanics and flight crew trainees. Thanks to the 3D capabilities in HoloLens mechanics “can study and be trained just as if they were working on the actual engine or cockpit,” placing their hands on virtual engines and parts, says Koji Hayamizu, senior director of the planning group for JAL’s products and service administration department. Using HoloLens, flight crew trainees access a detailed hologram that will display cockpit devices and switches that they can operate themselves, with visual and voice guidance.
  • Lowe’s customers are using HoloLensto view a holographic representation of a new kitchen and customize design options for kitchen cabinetry, countertops, appliances and other home features. They may also share their designs online. “A miniature hologram kitchen allows for a bird’s eye perspective of the kitchen,” says Microsoft’s Erickson. In-store designers and friends can view what the customer is seeing and changing in real time through a hand-held Surface tablet.
  • Microsoft also is working with AECOM and Trimble Navigation to allow architects and engineers to view building construction and engineering schemas in 3D. AECOM says engineers and designers in London, Hong Kong and Denver, are exploring 3D buildings as if they were physical models on a table.


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