This article is written by Martin Heward, a Microsoft employee and long time professional in Business Applications, who shares his biz apps to mixed reality journey as a part of our Humans of Mixed Reality series. This blog is formatted in a Q&A style - please read Martin's answers to questions around his career story.
Q: How did you get started in the MR space?
A: As a long time professional in Business Applications (as a customer, partner, now Global Black Belt aka GBB specialist), I am no stranger to emerging technology since during much of my career, I've seen many Dynamics 365 products start off as an incubation product just like our Mixed Reality business applications today. Not long after I joined Microsoft 3.5 years ago, I came across the concept of Mixed Reality and immediately was intrigued by its possibility to add unmatched business value for my customers and prospects. As a new employee with time to learn (remember those days?) in the summer of 2018, I jumped on the opportunity to be one of the early adopters and became Master-Certified in both Mixed Reality and the HoloLens.
As part of that process, I received an HoloLens (1st gen) for learning and pre-sales. However, I am glad that I was disciplined enough to not play with it, or even turn it on until I had completed the learning courses. I will NEVER forget that magical moment when I put it on for the first time after having some idea (albeit only 2-dimensional) about what to expect. Even though the HoloLens (1st gen) had some limitations with field of view and gesturing that was not exactly intuitive at the time, I was completely blown away with Mixed Reality in general. I know many people have already said this before, but it truly is one of those rare concepts that you can describe with words and human emotions all day long, but not understand until you experience it on your own.
Here's a handy diagram to illustrate where mixed reality business applications like Remote Assist and Guides come in the broader Dynamics 365 infrastructure:
Q: What excites you most about mixed reality?
A: Personally, mixed reality is exciting to me because of how relevant and complementary it is to core challenges that our Business Applications customers are tackling each day. Mixed Reality and the value it brings spans every industry we operate in. It is certainly extremely relevant in my focus industries of Process Manufacturing, Energy, and Utilities. From Health and Safety, to Production Optimization, to an aging workforce of frontline workers; these are fundamental issues discussed in board rooms at every single one of the customer organizations I interact with. My job is to create a vision of transformation of business processes with Dynamics 365 - adding in Mixed Reality to my messaging is a way of super-charging this message and making the previously perceived sci-fi-like future seem very possible and current.
Q: Why do you think mixed reality business applications are truly transformative for organizations?
A: We all know transformation may be one of the most overused terms in our industry, and perhaps the most vague. Business Applications is unique in the sense that it is not a commodity that we are delivering, instead it is more like a box of LEGO, if you will, that requires transformation of business processes that the configured Business App is meant to complement. This process of envisioning typically takes lots of time. What is so refreshing about Dynamics 365 mixed reality business applications such as Remote Assist and Guides is that they are much closer to a commodity than those of us in Business Applications are used to. Mixed Reality applications can transform business processes and be adopted quickly, sometimes even right out of the box.
This quick time to value is related to the fundamental nature of mixed reality apps. I've spoken with many individuals who experience mixed reality for the first time (be it at marketing shows and conferences) and they often have sentiment much like mine around “the experience” of learning in a completely different manner than we are used to. Everyone’s learning styles are quite different - I see this first hand with my own two kids. Some are traditional, others are kinesthetic and require movement to retain information. There is something profound and different about performing tasks on a HoloLens. Many, including myself seem to retain information in much greater quantity and specificity than traditional methods.
Here's a nostalgic photo of me with my very first HoloLens (1st gen) device:
Q: What advice would you give to others considering careers in mixed reality, or exploring the use of mixed reality in their organizations?
A: As stated earlier, my advice about mixed reality is to first perform research and due diligence before jumping in and worrying about devices and your organizations specific use cases. The applications of mixed reality are vast, and just like any emerging technology, many decision makers within business see this as a future-state investment. For many, most unfortunately, this could mean months and years of pilots and proof of concepts. This is a medium that is proven to be transformational even in the most hard industrial environments within our customers operations. To avoid this perception of emerging versus ready, I would think outside the box and be very selective about the business problems you are aligning with. First impressions are quite powerful and can be a challenge to overcome if outcomes are not aligned with expectations. A good way of avoiding this is to weave it into messaging as matter of fact versus something profound and singled out.
Q: Do you have any useful resources you can share that have inspired you (links, e-books, podcasts etc)?
I hope you will be bold and experience mixed reality for yourself, and witness firsthand what it can do for industries worldwide!
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