[Guest Blog] XR and How To Bridge The Gap

Published Feb 25 2021 12:55 PM 1,214 Views
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This article was written by Nick Hughes, an avid contributor in the extended reality space as part of our Humans of Mixed Reality Guest Blogger Series. Nick Hughes shares about his approach and core best practices to the Mixed Reality stack and how YOU can bring value in XR projects. Missed watching Nick's Microsoft Reactor session on "Storytelling: Effective Sharing MR" in April? Watch the recording here!

 

The whole extended reality space is vast, fluid, and sometimes foolish to try to define. There are so many ways that we can leverage this innovative modality that it also makes it somewhat difficult to pitch. The idea of bridging the gap between extended reality and the tangible world is still relatively fresh to most people. In this article, I'm going to give my experience taking a pragmatic approach to the Microsoft mixed reality stack and how you can bring value to your XR projects.

 

The first ever HoloLens I used is still in my office!The first ever HoloLens I used is still in my office!

 

 

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “This guy is probably a Microsoft partner or some industry expert in mixed reality.” I assure you that two years ago I was running network cables down soot-covered walls in a foundry. 

 

If there is someone who has asked all the silly questions, someone who has had to search the acronym on the Internet, it is me. However, that is why what I am going to share might be helpful to you too. I am a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none type of person who just happens to be exceptional at translating all things technology into a humanly digestible form. This is going to land right in your backyard.

Two years ago, I was first exposed to XR. I put on a friend’s PlayStation VR headset and found myself captivated with the experience. The next couple of months had me buried in articles, YouTube videos, blogs, you name it. When I found the HoloLens, I couldn’t stop imagining all the business applications and use case scenarios. I knew this was going to be transformative, but I didn't know it was going to radically change my entire career direction as well.

 

Today, I help lead an extended reality team that covers the entire globe. We have deployed HoloLens and Remote Assist in nearly twenty countries and on almost every continent. This technology has dramatically transformed the way we can conduct business and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share with everyone how we did it.

  1. SHARE THIS AS SOON AS YOU CAN
    I cannot stress to you the importance of excitement. Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Every good citizen adds to the strength of a nation” and that should be your mindset when you first get your hands on a HoloLens. Your first goal should be to create as many “good citizens” of XR as possible. These people will help you to develop the organic business excitement that will be instrumental in the adoption, peer-aided adoption, and funding - yes funding! - of your efforts.
    A word of caution though, if you post all these showy videos in public places, once that excitement gets to a certain point, you’ll have to deliver that capability. Try to be intentional and align your program sponsors before it gets to that level. They may want you to temper that excitement and keep it regulated.

  2. BECOME A PART OF THE MIXED REALITY COMMUNITY
    If you've found us here on the Mixed Reality Tech Community, you're off to a good start! I and most ordinary humans can only partially consume all the information that is whirring around about XR. Developers are releasing original ideas and capabilities each day. A couple of suggestions that I recommend are the Microsoft Mixed Reality Community, Twitter, and the Global XR Community. These have been very effective in building my XR wisdom and helping flatten my learning curve.

    Don’t be intimidated - it is going to seem foreign to you at first and that's OK. As my friend, Steve Kaminski over at Microsoft would say, "just hang on by your fingernails to what you don’t know at first. If you stay engaged, it will all begin to make sense soon". If some of the content doesn’t hit home, go jump into AltSpaceVR for a support group or post something in the mixed reality forums. The XR community is wonderfully accommodating and we're all here to learn together.

  3. REMOTE ASSIST, TRAINING, INTEGRATION – SAY IT WITH ME
    The most straightforward value proposition is the cost savings from eliminating travel altogether. You will crush geographical barriers by traversing over border closings and eliminating the impact of COVID travel bans with ease. This will be huge for anyone doing business globally. All three of those elements can compound into a trifecta business case that is impossible to ignore. 
    Case in point: We are getting complete returns on our Microsoft stack investments in less than six months (~ 3 months) of having a device in operation. It practically pays for itself over time! Now THAT is powerful.

    Training is another significant piece of business that is challenging with the current health concerns. Remote Assist and Guides both facilitate the pseudo-face-to-face training as well as virtually guided training. This eliminates the need for another person to be present and helps mitigate risk as well as reduces labor cost. The icing on the cake is that I can normally train a slow adopter of technology how to use Guides in less than an hour because it is so simple. Two weeks into our rollout, a senior manager had come into an MTC meeting and asked “What is the next big thing? What does the future look like?” I can confidently answer that with a single word, integration. It isn’t a new technology that is next, but how we use extended reality. Connect your MES systems, connect your ERP and show your “good citizens” how to advance customized applications. That is like opening Pandora's box.

  4. CAPTURE THE STORY AND MAKE IT REAL
    Microsoft, specifically, has done a great job at making sure they have enough videos and knowledge available so that some of the stories can be told without too much trouble. However, to get that essential excitement, you’re going to want to show you and your people using XR at your own locations and in your own ways. So, let me accelerate that effort for you.
    As soon as you get your HoloLens 2, grab a laptop on the same network, go to the device portal, and then to the capture section. Now, open your HoloLens and record from the HoloLens. You can capture a brilliant first-person perspective of what you’re viewing. This will be meaningful when you’re making your marketing materials, especially for your executive stakeholders.

    You will also want to go buy a Microsoft Display Adapter. I know, I’m sounding like a bit of a salesman for Microsoft (trust me, I wish I got commissions too!) but, this adapter is small, inexpensive, and works without any configuration. Open the box, stick it in the HDMI and USB, and magically stream the first-person video directly to the television. This comes in very convenient when you’re showing someone the HoloLens for the first time!

  5. KEEP ORBITING
    If you take any advice from me it is this, “stay present and keep orbiting”. This technology will sell itself but you must keep in touch and you must be ready to seize an opportunity when it presents itself. You’ll be working quietly for a week and then someone will tell you about this new thing they want to explore! Yes! That is exactly what you want to happen.

    Carpe diem, friends!


    Do not let those kinds of opportunities go to waste because those “good citizens” are realizing the additional capability to the business. Be a facilitator and help them develop their ideas. That will resonate back to the business in a grand way. Especially when the users can build and then share their own story. You’ll see dividends from the peer-aided adoption that will come from those interactions.

    Remote Assist will consistently be a high value-add and transformative product to your business. You will want to continue to nurture and develop people to expertly use all the features and be able to bestow that capability with others. The more people using Remote Assist, the more people are exposed to XR in an easy-to-digest way. That is vital in your long-term success. You’re not going to be able to implement this new communication method with an isolated group of skilled operators.

Extended reality is here to stay! There is no doubt about it. Believe me - if you don’t get on board now, you’ll be ten years behind in just three years.

I welcome you to connect with me on Twitter and share your experiences! I love hearing what others are doing on the implementation side of things. @TheNerdNick #doSomethingGreatToday #XR

 

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