Will businesses share Microsoft's vision for HoloLens?
Many will see Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset and think of gaming, but Microsoft is already making the case that this is no toy, but rather a tool for businesses.
In the company's introductory video, we see a couple of business applications for HoloLens. In one vignette, a woman is designing a motorcycle. In addition to seeing the schematic on her monitor, we see a model-size version of the motorcycle on her desk. Then she gets out of her chair and says, "I have an idea for the fuel tank." Waving her hand, Minority Report-style, she grafts a virtual reality design onto the actual motorcycle.
In another, a guy coaches a woman through the process of replacing a drain trap. Is this the plumber of the future?
Though HoloLens is a new product, the pitch is familiar. When Google Glass launched in 2012, Google positioned it as a consumer device, but businesspeople were quick to see its potential. Augmedix, for instance, gives doctors instant access to online medical records via Glass; another company, Wearable Intelligence, aims to transmit such data to oil rig workers and contractors in the field. Advertisers also envisioned a new virtual world to colonize.
The business world's embrace of Glass hasn't exactly been a groundswell, but it's a positive contrast to Glass' consumer trajectory, which has been on the downswing for a while (especially since The Daily Show viciously skewered it last year). These days, Glass has all the cachet of a tinfoil hat, unless you're in a business where it's actually useful.
For that reason,
Microsoft HoloLens may be the best news Google Glass has seen in a while.
Microsoft HoloLens may be the best news Google Glass has seen in a while. Brian Ballard, cofounder and CEO of APX Labs, a developer of wearable technologies, says the device market can be broken into three categories: virtual reality like Oculus Rift, augmented reality like HoloLens and heads-up displays like Glass.
Ballard says he thinks HoloLens, with its eye-blocking and front-facing camera, will find a niche in collaborative manufacturing, rapid prototyping and architecture/construction — that is, it will be strong for making things. Glass, by contrast, will be more applicable "anytime you're dealing person to person — having that veil between you can be really awkward."
The medical profession is a good example. Would you rather have your doctor outfitted with Glass or HoloLens?
Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, an IT consultancy, also sees HoloLens finding a home in niche business applications. "It's impossible to predict the future but with the willing efforts of innovative developers, I expect HoloLens could inspire new or enhanced business and industrial use cases," he says.
Another possible business use case is for HoloLens as a provider of brand experiences, which could range from entertainment to interacting with a company rep. Some marketers are already experimenting with Oculus for the former, but HoloLens' hooks into existing Windows infrastructure implies that it might be a sea change for computing in general. That, at least, is the view of Forrester Analyst James McQuivey, whose grandiose view of HoloLens may prompt many a marketer to try on a pair as soon as possible.
"If successful, HoloLens will ultimately expand the way people interact with machines just as the mouse-based interface did in the 1990s, and touch interfaces did after the introduction of the iPhone in 2007." MQuivey said, adding that HoloLens will "expand the way brands interact with consumers forever more, working its way through industry after industry much the way Web and mobile experiences did before it."