When human insight meets technology we call it humanology.

 Jan Kelley
INSIGHTS

Mixed reality and your business (that includes you, B2B companies)

Shannon Ballard

VP, Customer Innovation

If you’re not steeped in technology, mixed reality probably seems like something for video game enthusiasts. You see big headsets and hand controls, and it looks like a Wii console that you wear on your face.

Yes, gamers are using mixed reality, but you know who else is using it? Professionals.

Doctors. Manufacturers. Set designers. Engineers. Architects. And anyone who collaborates over long distances.

This isn’t just a new toy for the marketing department. Mixed reality is becoming a serious part of digital transformation initiatives.

In fact, a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study showed that 68% of respondents believe mixed reality is important to achieving their companies’ strategic goals in the next 18 months.

We don’t know about you, but that lit a fire under us to learn more about this technology.

So we asked Microsoft’s Michael Thibodeau to walk us through it; he was a key member on the team that rolled out the HoloLens 1 and HoloLens 2. This is what he told us.

What is mixed reality?

Mixed Reality spectrum: Image from Microsoft.

Mixed Reality spectrum: Image from Microsoft

Mixed reality is a blend of the physical world and the digital world.

It comprises augmented reality (e.g. Pokémon GO) and virtual reality (e.g. immersive flight simulation). Mixed reality keeps you in your own environment, but it allows you to manipulate and interact with virtual elements.

Like Iron Man, but with a headset.

Mixed reality scene from "Iron Man"

Mixed reality scene from “Iron Man”

Watch this video from Microsoft; it’ll help you visualize what this type of technology is capable of.

The benefits of mixed reality

What can mixed reality do that emails, video chats and conference calls can’t? Here are just a few of the benefits.

Experience spatial concepts in 3D

Screens and whiteboards are useful, but they are two dimensional. Mixed reality lets you see, build and interact with ideas in 3D, so you can share feedback in real time.

See holograms in context

Because mixed reality recognizes the spatial environment, it can display virtual elements at scale. So, for example, you could plan an office space using virtual desks and chairs.

Data in context. Image from Microsoft.

Data in context: Image from Microsoft

Interact with holograms, hands free

Mixed-reality devices, like the HoloLens, recognize your hand movements, so you don’t need controllers. If you’re using mixed reality to fix a piece of equipment, for example, you can work on the piece directly while you watch the instructions.

How mixed reality is being used in business

Here are some of the ways mixed reality is changing the way people are working.

Remote assistance

  • Employees, specifically field technicians, can work heads up and hands free, while connecting with a remote expert
  • Managers walk the job site without being on site

Space planning

  • Design room layouts with 3D holograms in the real world
  • Edit physical designs easily

Training

  • Enhance learning with step-by-step instructions that help employees learn new skills faster
  • Generate data to improve process​es
Mixed Reality in Training: Image from Microsoft

Mixed Reality in Training: Image from Microsoft

Collaboration

  • Visualize complex data information and discuss it in real time
  • Improve stakeholder understanding through immersive and natural views
  • Enhance real-time collaboration, planning, creativity and brainstorming

Our point of view

We’re only beginning to understand all the ways mixed reality can be used in industry. Cutting-edge businesses are experimenting with how this new experience could enhance their operations. In all likelihood, five years from now, people will be using mixed reality in ways that never occurred to us.

Our advice? Keep a close eye on it. There’s no need to join the early adopters, but if you’re serious about innovation in your business, stay up to date on how people are using mixed reality in your industry. The last thing you want is to lose lead time learning about this technology, while competitors are already making it work.

Learn more about mixed reality

Want to do some more digging on mixed reality? Here are some links to get you started.

Feature image courtesy of Microsoft

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