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Why HoloLens is Microsoft's biggest bet under virtual reality

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In the interiors of Punjab, Swedish food packaging giant Tetra Pak is experimenting with a technology that can help solve a complex glitch in its manufacturing line within a matter of minutes, without the need to fly down a specialist. 


Microsoft launched the technology in 2015 and several global organisations have already deployed it.

Microsoft launched the technology in 2015 and several global organisations have already deployed it. 

 
 The technology, HoloLens, is Microsoft's biggest bet in the area of mixed or virtual reality. It is helping ground-level engineers and doctors to not just access real-time assistance during an emergency situation, but gets expansive real-life-like training as well. 
 
Microsoft launched the technology in 2015 and several global organisations have already deployed it -space agency NASA uses HoloLens to deliver real-life experiences of walking on Mars in a room. In India, too, HoloLens has started to gain momentum. 

“This is a great example of how you think that technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence are only first world but it turns out that it is needed more here,“ Meetul Patel, general manager for marketing & operations at Microsoft India, told ET. Coupled with artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and big data analysis, HoloLens could become one of the most powerful tools in the coming times, he added.  
 
“You have the benefits of the skills and talent of the global workforce being applicable to some tier II or III city which may otherwise cost enormous money and predictive maintenance is making sure you are not down for a day or two which may again cost millions,“ Patel said. 

The technology, which seems straight out of a sci-fi film for its ability to turn the empty space around a person into one large 3D screen where hand motions and gestures can shut or open computer icons or type out entire documents, is being deployed by not just Tetra Pak in India, but also several other leading companies including those in healthcare and aviation. 

While IT firm Ramco Systems is developing apps for the aviation sector using HoloLens, Hyderabad-based LV Prasad Eye Institute is using it for bettering its service. 

Kandarp Singh, managing director, Tetra Pak-South Asia markets, told ET that over 5,000 manufacturing lines of the company globally use predictive maintenance and 50 units globally are running HoloLens. In India, the company is just starting the deployment of HoloLens with a pilot in Punjab. 

“You can't have milk sitting in a plant while there is a breakdown, it has huge financial consequences. HoloLens is one of the technologies that we have adapted with a view that if we have a problem we can have someone sitting half way across the world walk a service engineer through the solution and you have the system up and running in, say, 20 minutes.“ 

HoloLens is also being used to deliver in-depth aviation maintenance and overhaul training as well as remote support, Ramco Systems chief ecosystem officer Harsh Vardhan said. 

“From digitisation, training on jet turbines to tracking and tracing tools in the inventory, Ramco has been building cutting-edge applications on top of Microsoft's HoloLens for its enterprise customers.“ 

Going forward, Ramco plans to explore how it can digitise an entire aircraft from corresponding 3D models, he added. 

To provide aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul training, 3D models of jet turbines are converted into detailed holograms and rendered on HoloLens. These present every scenario an engineer might encounter as part of his operational responsibilities. Every component of the jet turbine can be navigated intricately and, on selecting a specific component, the engineer can gain access to detailed videos and related visual information about the component, Ramco said in a note. 

In eye care, mixed reality brings with it amazing possibilities to redefine the way it teaches eye anatomy, Anthony Vipin Das of LV Prasad Eye Institute said. “The Holo Eye Anatomy application enables the user to be in the experience and visualise anatomical structures in a whole new perspective,“ said Das. Surgical training, he said, is another exciting prospect the technology holds. 

Globally, the technology is being deployed by companies like ThyssenKrupp in the manufacturing sector and automotive companies such as Ford, which recently said its automotive designers have started using HoloLens that will help them design cars better and faster. 

While Internet giant Google's virtual reality product, Google Glass, has failed to take off, Microsoft is claiming great early success with HoloLens. In a recent interview, chief executive Satya Nadella said the next big waves were going to be mixed reality and artificial intelligence and that he believed that Microsoft was “definitely“ on the forefront of it. 

The virtual reality space is hotting up, with Microsoft expected to host a big-ticket Windows Mixed Reality event in San Francisco where it is expected to display its work in the areas of augmented and virtual reality, especially HoloLens. In August this year, Microsoft said that tech majors such as Dell, Lenovo and HP among others will soon start shipping their affordable virtual reality headsets.Also coming is a special edition of Windows 10, which is custom built for these headsets. In the co .. 

 
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