In a survey recently published by Microsoft and Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 68 percent of respondents reported having confidence in mixed reality playing a significant role in achieving the strategic goals of their company over the next 18 months. In addition, another 87 percent of participants reported they were already in the process of exploring, piloting, or deploying mixed reality in their industrial workflows. The findings of this report are on par with signals companies like Microsoft have observed for a long time, and align with the high levels of activity they continue seeing in this space.
Mixed reality technology has continually provided demonstrable value across a broad variety of workplace scenarios. Fueling additional interest from both developers and businesses, the influence of mixed reality on business strategies is something I touched on last week that these findings further support. The report surveyed 394 executives of companies with over 250 employees (each), and spanned across several industries including manufacturing, engineering, construction, retail, defense, and education. One of its findings identified several key opportunities like empowering and skilling “Firstline workers”—who comprised 80 percent of the workforce, but often have limited access to relevant, contextual information due to their job’s on-the-field nature. These are typically the workers on the frontlines of any business workflow, the individuals behind counters, in clinics, traveling between customers for field service, or on the factory floors.
Several of Microsoft’s commercial customers are already providing mixed reality solutions to their Firstline workers that enable features like remote assistance, spatial planning, and environmentally contextual data (just to mention a few). Mixed reality allows Firstline workers to conduct their typical daily routine activities with the additional benefit of heads-up, hands-free access to coveted contextual information. Microsoft, for example, reached an important milestone when they built a thriving enterprise ecosystem for its HoloLens mixed reality technology. Other recent happenings like enabling businesses to access the device and deployment support through a subscription device, are more likely to aid these efforts in scaling to the business community, who might have initially hesitated to invest.
As of now, it ultimately remains to be seen whether smaller industry-focused players in this space will eventually manage to steal away some of this first-mover advantage from Microsoft, or if fellow technology conglomerates like Apple take bigger shares of this immersive setup. A lot will depend on whether HoloLens’ highly-anticipated second iteration (due later in 2018), will significantly improve the experience and functionality, along with addressing some of the persistent complaints raised by the community (like a relatively small field of view).
Having said that, it is quite clear that this will be bigger than any single company. Evolution in computing offered by mixed reality is not a consumer reality just yet, but is instead being driven by the business community.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)