This article was written by Hololens/Mixed Reality/Windows App Development and Maps fanatic
Joost van Schaik as part of our Humans of Mixed Reality Guest Blogger Series. Joost, a Senior Mixed Reality Software Architect at Velicus is based in the Netherlands and shares about his Mixed Reality journey.
This is a story in two parts. The first part is the story of a developer mesmerized by new tech.
Some people might call me a veteran developer. I have been writing software since the mid 80’s, been professionally employed as a developer since 1992, and honestly thought I had seen it all. Writing scripts, developing in CAD and Geographical information systems, frontend development, backend development, services, making Windows apps, Web apps, Cloud development, even mobile apps… I felt like if you name it, at one point in my life I had probably seen or even done it.
Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Until November 4, 2015. I found myself at the Microsoft Redmond campus as a MVP. And I had just - for the first time in my life - had a half hour of quality time with a new device that was not even out yet – the Microsoft HoloLens. I decided, on the spot, right there and then to become a HoloLens developer.
Turns out, it was a lot trickier than I thought. And the issues were not technical-related.
Somehow, I managed to convince my erstwhile employer to buy a HoloLens device. In fact, they got two, and they arrived very early in the release cycle early June 2016. In preparation I already trained myself in HoloLens development. After a few days I had my first self-made simple app, three months later I had my first HoloLens app in the store – it shows air traffic around Amsterdam Schiphol airport in 3D around you. It even made it to Windows weekly. I spent a lot of time demo-ing HoloLens. We even did a few commercial projects, and my future in Mixed Reality seemed secure.
Or so I thought. It ended abruptly on a bleak February morning in 2018, when I was told by our management that although the HoloLens PR opportunities were great, the monetary value of those opportunities did not seem not as good, and that our company's mixed reality activities would have to end. I decided to keep following my star, left the company and teamed up with my fellow MVP and friend Alexander Meijers, who described his journey a short time ago. I won’t repeat what he said, but we did a great few projects together, most notably the deck marking and the scaffolding project he described. But alas, then COVID-19 happened – and once again Mixed Reality came to a screeching halt – just before the long-awaited HoloLens 2 devices arrived.
Once again, I had to make a tough decision, now in the face of a looming global crisis. And once again I decided to follow my star, left my job again and joined a startup dedicated to health & safety training – most notably CPR training without a trainer. When the idea for this startup was coined well over a year ago, no one would have dreamed that being able to train without a teacher would become so important in the near future.
The second part of this story is of a human being getting nothing less than an epiphany.
See, when I first got a HoloLens on my head in 2015, I kind of knew what to expect – but I was not prepared for the all-encompassing experience. I felt like I was struck by lightning. I could see the future. I could see it right before my own eyes, both figuratively and in the most literal sense of the word. I could see how this could change the future. I could see that it could be my future. And it was, although, like I said, that journey was not that easy.
After all these years, I never could get enough of putting a HoloLens on people’s heads for the very first time and watching their facial reactions. First, there is a short moment of puzzlement, as they try to absorb what is happening and literally cannot believe their eyes. Then follows an expression of marvel, and usually a big smile. Then they discover that you cannot only see, but also interact by looking and touching objects after a few seconds of tentatively trying people get really drawn into the device and the environment. I love it. Every time.
And then the ‘creative flow’ starts. People come to terms the fact with that this no longer magic but a new reality – that HoloLens exists, that in essence it is nothing more than a computer with a fancy (okay, extremely fancy) display and some extraordinary sensory capabilities, that can be programmed to do their bidding. They start to see how it can fulfill their business needs. How it can make things that were hard easier, things that were impossible achievable. Once you accept that the device shows things that seem to be really there and that you can interact with those things just like if they were actual physical objects, these ‘magic glasses’ actually are absurdly easy to use.
I think it’s awesome to see that with the advent of HoloLens 2, the time of PR stunts, demo projects and consultancy companies trying to make a buck surfing on the hype of a new device is over. Now, we see companies developing products or services simply utilizing HoloLens 2 and its capabilities. Microsoft itself is doing an excellent job with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and Guides, which encompass two very frequently-cited business cases into standard out-of-the-box solutions that companies everywhere can easily implement. This delivers instant added value to a 4-digit figure device - all without even needing to first employ a bucket-load of technical folks like me in order to get some value out of it.
And no, don’t fear to become a superfluous developer soon – you see, these out of the box apps will give rise to demand for custom applications or services. I see standard products as a net plus: it lowers the barrier to entry, and once you are in… you are in. There is room for citizen developers to truly flourish and also harness the power of mixed reality.
The future of Mixed Reality is bright my friends, for both users and developers. It will have a great impact on the work floor. It has already started doing so. Mark my words.
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