Do you remember that scene from The Matrix where Neo and Trinity are being chased and they stumble upon a helicopter? Neo asks "Can you fly that thing?" Trinity says "Not yet." Trinity then makes a call to Tank back on the ship and "requests" the instructions which are then "downloaded" to her and well...as she puts it: "Let's go!" Trinity now knows everything she needs to know to fly a helicopter. Problem solved.
Crazy, right? Not so much.The Matrix, made back in 1999, was only foreshadowing some of the technology that is now, in 2019, becoming reality. Augmented reality.
Microsoft HoloLens 2, the company's new augmented reality headset, essentially plugs into that Matrix. Except today we call it the cloud. And its potential uses will change the way many of us do business in the very near future.
Augmented reality is not the same as virtual reality. In a virtual reality environment, you're sitting in a room somewhere with a headset that's creating a fake world. In an augmented reality environment, you're in the real world, except your headset is enhancing it with more information to help you navigate the world better.
HoloLens 2 is that headset. There are competitors, of course. But Microsoft's hardware, which was demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress earlier this week, is leading the pack. When it's released later this year I predict it will be snapped up by many companies and developers eager to build applications for it. At $3,500 the price is almost reasonable. And because it's been re-designed for better weight distribution and comfort (some say it fits like a baseball cap) it'll be more easily adopted by companies who will take advantage of its many potential uses. What kind of uses?
Troubleshooting, inspecting, maintaining and fixing machinery on the floor using interactive guides, pointers and diagrams that's taking the real life object into consideration and specifically walking an employee through a procedure. Treating people or animals onsite during an emergency where the medical technician is given immediate visual instructions or is acting as the eyes and ears for a more experienced doctor who's located potentially thousands of miles away. Inspections of infrastructure and facilities where heat maps point out potential problem areas along with steps to repair.
How about the enabling of teams located around the world to collaborate on plans, designs, structures and situations as they happen? Or the walk through of homes and properties with a prospective buyer who can't travel to that location? Or a hologram of a colleague or customer that's participating in a meeting? And of course, there's the teaching or guidance of a novice on how to operate complicated equipment, drive a vehicle or yes, even fly a helicopter.
Microsoft's HoloLens can do all of this because the headset is capturing a lot of real-life, physical information from the person who wears it and then using artificial intelligence to process that information. Eye movements are being tracked. The field of view has been expanded. Hand gestures like pointing and pinching and waving are comprehended. Will this thing one day be able to interpret feelings, emotions and the user's personality? I wouldn't count that out either.
Don't dismiss this. Already drones, sensors and even autonomous vehicles are being used by hundreds of companies for mapping, analytics, preventative maintenance, deliveries and construction. These technologies were once considered science fiction. But now they're quickly becoming reality.
HoloLens was once considered just a potential gaming tool. But this is no game. This hardware is all business. So regardless of whether you decide on the red pill or the blue pill, your company is still going to receive a serious does of augmented reality in the not-so-distant future.
Author's note: My company is a Microsoft Partner however I have received no compensation from Microsoft for writing this piece. We sell unrelated products made by Microsoft.