Mixed Reality: Microsoft HoloLens summer school launches
VISR mixed reality
VISR mixed reality integration (Credit: VISR)

Mixed Reality: Microsoft HoloLens summer school launches

The University of Hull and mixed reality (MR) development platform VISR have launched a Microsoft HoloLens summer school, known as the Mixed Reality Accelerator.

The programme has been shaped to help industry professionals adopt MR technology in their businesses and gain expertise in this emerging field.

The partnership brings together Microsoft’s HoloLens and Azure Cloud platform, VISR’s VERTEX, and students from the University.

Spatial awareness

VISR is based at the University’s Enterprise Centre and specialises in developing commercial applications for Microsoft HoloLens and spatial computing. Its VERTX platform is a space-aware operating system, designed to allow users to manipulate and model the real and digital aspects of an environment using the same tools.

By combining the system with HoloLens, users are able to manipulate designs and 3D assets, alongside physical assets such as cameras, IoT devices, and programmable logic controller (PLC) systems.

A key advocate for the programme, Microsoft product marketing director, Leila Martine, said:

In this era of profound digital disruption, the majority of industries will experience significant change within two years. It is therefore vital that technology partners and universities come together to create a streamlined approach for the creation of meaningful proofs of concept, which can be quickly tested, and return-on-investment (ROI) validated in a way that can then be taken forward by an organisation and integrated into their existing business processes.

Audi engages Mixed Reality Accelerator

The scheme hopes to aid companies from around the world solve real-world issues with MR technology, while giving students exposure to collaboration opportunities, boosting their employment prospects.

The University of Hull has invested in the new Mixed Reality Accelerator, and the creation of a first-of-its-kind specialist facility for HoloLens application development, in response to the potential application of mixed reality in business settings – for example, to streamline processes, aid training, free up users’ hands for other tasks, and provide access to vital information at a glance.

John Hemingway, director of ICT at the University of Hull, said:

We believe strongly in the potential offered by programmes that involve not just education, but also industry and private business as well. The Mixed Reality Accelerator is a great example of this.

VISR mixed reality
William Meade, programmer (l) and Louis Deane, VISR Co-Founder and Director (r)

Louis Deane, a University of Hull graduate who co-founded VISR, one of the earliest Microsoft Mixed Reality partners in Europe, used the example of a car workshop to explain how the technology could impact on working processes: “The engineer can now work in an environment where, as they approach a vehicle, the HoloLens can recognise where the work needs to be carried out, and provide direct visual instructions overlaid on the car.

“Pair this with intelligent devices, such as robots that bring the exact required parts and tools, so they’re at hand and work with the technician to make them more efficient, and suddenly you’re looking at huge increases in cost savings and productivity.”

Companies currently enrolled on the Mixed Reality Accelerator include carmaker Audi, global drinks brand AB InBev, energy company Centrica, and India-based digital learning specialists, LearningMate.

Audi is looking to use VERTX technology, and visual and spatial computing, more widely, to enable its technicians to boost context awareness in workflows.

“For us, it’s a great opportunity to bring our experience and vision of future use cases in contact with the experts in different fields, added to the creativity and knowledge of the team at the University. The intention and goals of the initiative are a perfect fit for our activities and we are looking forward to working together,” said Jan Pflueger, Audi’s coordinator of AR & VR at its Centre of Competence.

Internet of Business says

The University of Hull continues to establish itself as a leading hub of digital innovation. Its Enterprise Centre already claims to house the leading high-performance computer (HPC) in the north of England.

However, for all the noise around VR, AR, and MR, mixed reality hasn’t yet seen widespread adoption in industry. There are encouraging signs of its potential, however.

AstraZeneca saw impressive results in its HoloLens trials, when it translated several of its standard operating procedures (SOPs) to the device, with huge accuracy and time-saving gains. It now plans to roll out the technology more widely. Other companies could learn a great deal from this approach and by participating in programmes such as the Mixed Reality Accelerator.

It doesn’t require huge budgets or R&D teams to innovate with MR. Principally, it’s a case of communicating with those on the shop floor to identify processes that could be augmented by the technology, and investing just one or two MR devices to develop a proof of concept. Once the business case is established in this way, it’s far easier to justify greater investment.