Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 AR glasses are business-ready. We show what that means and what use cases are already available for AR glasses.
The benefits of augmented reality, which is to say the enhancement of the real world with digital content, are becoming more and more apparent at companies and in industry. This is also because AR glasses are becoming increasingly better. For example, the glasses are smaller and lighter, the graphics are better, they are easier to operate, and the field of view is wider than it was just a few years ago. All of this makes it easier – and more beneficial – to integrate them into day-to-day work.
Microsoft is leading the market with its HoloLens glasses, which are now available in a second, much improved version. But what are they used for? We present the glasses and start with three areas of application made significantly more efficient in terms of day-to-day work with the HoloLens 2.
The HoloLens 2
The HoloLens 2 is a pair of augmented reality glasses (Microsoft refers to this as mixed reality because the real world is mixed with virtual elements) that brings 3D graphics, texts, and other information to life using transparent, holographic lenses called waveguides. For example, circuit or maintenance information from a car can be placed digitally on the real car, in exactly the right position. Similar to an X-ray, you can view the engine through the hood while working or look at the structure of the brake system through the tire.
The latest version of Microsoft’s AR glasses was exhibited at numerous trade shows last year, including the International Motor Show. These augmented reality glasses have been available since November 2019. They are much better than their predecessor model.
Features & benefits of the HoloLens 2
Better field of view
The width of the field of view of AR glasses describes how much digital information can be displayed in all directions, similar to the size of a monitor. At almost 50 degrees, these glasses have one of the widest AR fields of view on the market. Depending on the size and distance, entire machine components can fit into the wearer’s field of view. A wider field of view is a decisive breakthrough for the productive use of AR glasses.
Improved camera as well as gesture and hand control
HoloLens 2 offers intuitive gesture controls that work much more easily than their predecessor thanks to the new and ultraprecise hand tracking system: You can grab digital objects like you would in real life with your hand, enlarging or shrinking them with gestures similar to those you use on a smartphone screen. With your index finger, for example, you can move objects and sort them in space, or operate buttons. The hand control is so simple that even computer amateurs can operate this device with ease.
More comfortable to wear
The head strap was further developed for long work activities and is now much more comfortable. The actual AR headset can be worn over regular glasses. Elegant: The front part of the glasses can also fold up like a visor whenever it is not needed.
User authentication via iris scan
The setup and startup process was also greatly improved. An integrated eye tracking system scans the user’s iris right after the headset is put on, which both verifies the user, and configures the device for the user’s viewing needs.
The purchase price of the HoloLens is around $3,500. These AR glasses can also be rented, which may include software and remote maintenance depending on the package. Is it worth buying at this price? Yes! You just have to know how you can sensibly implement AR glasses into your company.
In the following, we present three excellent areas of application that show how the HoloLens makes day-to-day work at companies easier and more efficient.
Use Case: Remote Assistance
With Dynamics 365, Microsoft offers software solutions for sales and customer support as well as business management. This is used to process data efficiently as well as simplify business processes using various programs.
Dynamics 365 Remote Assist is a particularly useful tool in combination with the HoloLens 2. The camera can be used to connect an expert from anywhere in the world who can then work with the user on a problem directly at their location or discuss a situation in real time.
There is no longer a need to tediously describe critical factors over the phone, which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings. Instead, the expert can see everything directly from the user’s experience. Especially helpful: Both parties can add digital markers in the room to provide the other with notes or instructions in real time.
The big advantage of digital AR collaboration is the ability to work together on-site, even from far away, on a given object. Particularly in the case of complex systems whose failure is costly, problems must be identified and rectified within the shortest possible time. If an expert is needed who is not available on site, the time spent waiting until they arrive can mean considerable financial losses. Remote Assist and the HoloLens help you avoid travel costs and reduce expensive waiting times to a fraction of what they previously were. The acquisition costs of the HoloLens 2 are quickly amortized in this respect.
There are special solutions for particularly difficult environments, such as construction sites, assembly halls, drilling platforms, or in mining. In such cases, the HoloLens 2 can be used in conjunction with a safety helmet (Trimble XR10 is a dedicated offer for the use of HoloLens 2 with helmets) and special speakers (bone conduction, i.e. sound transmission via the skull bones, e.g. from Mobilus). The AR glasses also meet strict requirements for occupational safety.
Use case, visualization: PTC Vuforia Studio
Collaborative work and training using augmented reality require objects in 3D. By visualizing a device, workpiece, or even a system, users can learn about structures interactively and perform maintenance together.
Vuforia Studio from PTC provides a software that makes visualization quick and easy. Simply import your 3D data, for example a CAD model of a machine, and then add notes or data to individual elements via drag and drop.
This information and data can then be displayed directly on the real machine using augmented reality and the HoloLens 2. You can even link real-time data from actual machines to the virtual model, creating a digital twin for the AR glasses. If there is a malfunction, you can search for the cause on the digital model, also together with other participants. You can specifically analyze individual components depending on the model’s level of detail.
Vuforia Studio applications can also be used to work collaboratively on an object. Two or more users see the same model and can interact with it in real time. In this way, new employees and trainees can be trained on new workpieces or machines in an efficient and inexpensive manner.
The 3D applications created with Vuforia Studio also benefit from real-time streaming via Microsoft’s Azure Remote Rendering. Complex 3D models are normally optimized by Vuforia Studio and depicted at low resolution in order to achieve good viewing performance. This often hides details. Together with Microsoft’s Azure Rendering Service, this is now a thing of the past. 3D objects are now streamed directly to supported devices in real time and at full resolution without any polygon reduction.
Use case, maintenance & assembly: Inspect AR
Typical maintenance and inspections are often still conducted with clipboards or complete file folders. However, digitization is increasing: Checklists and reference images are moving to the smartphone or tablet.
The augmented reality software Inspect AR for industry and companies goes one step further. The AR app makes inspection processes easier, more intuitive, and more efficient. The HoloLens is also especially practical because the user has both hands free and therefore has much more freedom of movement.
With the HoloLens 2 and Inspect AR, inspection processes become more efficient. IMAGE: Netcetera / Microsoft
Inspect AR can be used for system and vehicle inspections, incoming and outgoing goods inspections, quality assurance, safety inspections, and installation support. The app is also well suited for training new employees.
If a new test sequence has been created – also via the app – every individual work step is accompanied by navigation to the test points. This ranges from distance displays and arrows that digitally guide the inspector to their respective destination through to complete process controls for each individual operation in an easy-to-use graphical user interface.
Each test process is divided into checkpoints that must be processed in sequence. This ensures that employees never leave out any steps. If a checkpoint is skipped by request, the software records this decision.
The status of test objects can be checked directly at the respective checkpoints using target images. If something is wrong, help can be obtained via remote maintenance. Support can gain access to the HoloLens 2 camera, review the problem from the user’s perspective, and give instructions on how to rectify it, as necessary.
Checkpoints of a test sequence are divided into work steps that have to be completed and acknowledged. Here a view of the backend. Among other things, data and evaluations are shown in the backend. IMAGE: Netcetera
Images and videos of the test object or damaged components, for example, can be recorded and documented directly using the Inspect AR app and the HoloLens 2. They then become available to other employees who are responsible for repairs, for example.
The advantages of doing inspections with Inspect AR and the HoloLens 2 are obvious: Inspection tasks are much easier to transfer to other employees who no longer require a long introduction. This means that the employee is guided precisely to the individual checkpoints and, thanks to AR technology, can simultaneously document and make changes to the real object as necessary.
Bottom line: The HoloLens 2 and augmented reality make day-to-day work more efficient
The previously described areas of application for the HoloLens 2 in companies and industry extend the technical possibilities of employees and facilitate collaboration and support, even over large distances. In addition, significant time is saved, particularly because the employees’ hands are free. For example, the AR device does not have to be put down to open a cover or operate a switch box. The AR glasses always remains firmly on the head.
Another large benefit is the lower error rate thanks to the visual guidance and direct digital documentation systems. Because AR visualization shows exactly how to assemble a device or where the malfunction is, the risk of elements being forgotten or put together incorrectly is significantly lower.
We have the HoloLens 2, and with us you can quickly find out what it means for you.
HoloLens 2 specifications
- Optics: transparent lenses with integrated waveguide displays
- Resolution: 2K 3:2 light engines
- Brightness: 500 Nits (prototype demo)
- Image density: more than 2.5K radiants (light points per radian measure)
- Comfort: 566 grams (HL1: 579 grams), fold-up visor, computer on the back of the head, new head strap, individual design for partners, e.g. for construction sites
- Battery life: approx. two to three hours
- Eye tracking rendering: optimization of the display along the focus
- Hand tracking: both hands are fully recognized, direct interaction with AR overlays
- Voice control
- Eye tracking in real time (also works for people who wear glasses), including for automatic eye distance measurement
- 6DoF tracking in real time
- Spatial mapping in real time with object detection
- SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 850
- HPU: second generation of the “holographic processor”
- WiFi: 802.11ac 2×2
- Bluetooth: 5.0
- USB: USB Type-C
- Camera: eight megapixel photos, 1080p30 videos
- Mixed reality recordings for photos and videos possible