When Microsoft released the Developer’s Edition of the HoloLens in 2016, enterprise software maker Upskill was one of the frst to receive the head-mounted
computer. At the time, the $3,000 device was promised as a
wearable gateway to an amazing new place to work and play,
able to transport video game players and design engineers to
A variation on augmented reality, this immersive technology
allows the holograms displayed on your visor to appear in the
physical world. Simple fnger movements then allow these digital
enhancements to be enlarged, shrunk, or moved just as easily
as any window or icon on a smartphone screen.
Microsoft offers 446 various apps, ranging from educational
to sports performance trackers. One game turns your fnger into
a laser blaster to quell an alien invasion in your living room, while
a medical app created at Case Western Reserve University allows
researchers to examine massive digital simulations of the brain
and circulatory system, a la Fantastic Voyage or Innerspace.
“I’ve looked at data sets like this for 10 years, and I never fully
understood their 3D structure until I saw them in HoloLens,”
recalled Mark Griswold, a radiology professor at CWRU.
Upskill went a less fantastical route, focusing on how it can
leverage the HoloLens to provide real effciency gains for its
Skylight platform users in the manufacturing space, like it
previously proved with smartglasses. These assisted-reality
applications included virtually pulling in remote experts to
troubleshoot broken equipment or providing hands-free work
instructions for complex assembly.
This October, the Washington D. C.-based company announced
Skylight for Microsoft HoloLens, available for free to all current
Skylight enterprise licensees.
• Spatial content placement to drop and move PDFs and
other digital content (including videos) anywhere in a
worker’s feld of vision, making the world around them a
360-deg giant computer desktop
• Multi-window viewing to look at and organize several pieces
of content content in one, as if they were arranging paper
work instructions on a table
• Native content integration to access and display work
instructions and engineering drawings in PDF format in
real-time and without needing to transcode or reauthor
• Natural user interaction, which allows users to directly
navigate applications, interact with content and reposition
information within a workspace through simple hand or
“This is the continued evolution of the right tool for the
right job-value proposition,” says Jay Kim, Upskill’s Chief
With the software update so new, Upskill has not released
exactly how much time can be saved and downtime spared
with HoloLens, but previous uses of the AR platform have
cut production time by 25% (Boeing using Google Glass Enterprise Edition).
“We expect similar performance metrics on this solution,”
If that hold true, it’s safe to say the HoloLens will be an
instant hit on the factory foor.
It could also radically alter operation’s expectations. The
questions of how long it should take to install or fx machinery,
perform routine maintenance, or even train new employees
at a workstation could possibly be measured in minutes
instead of hours.
That’s because, from a technology standpoint, using smartglasses equipped with a monocular display is not all that
different than clipping a smartphone to the brim of a ballcap.
Putting on a HoloLens gives you the same powers of Harry
Potter in the Matrix. You can manifest anything you want to
tackle any task. And all those features mentioned above are
working all the time, amplifying each other. Even if you work
with extended displays, you know those screens fll up in a
hurry for complex jobs.
For a maintenance job on a robot, you can lock several pages
of work instructions to your left, and have a video demo left
by your integrator to the right of the machine you’re working
on. Need a close up of the circuit path? Turn your head to the
left, look directly at the page and extend your index fnger from
your thumb to magnify the schematics.
All these micro gestures (as opposed to fipping through
paper instructions or even searching through a tablet) helps
the job get done faster with the minimum amount of effort.
That’s good for the company, but even better for the tech
or engineer performing it.
“The problem we are trying to solve for now is reducing
the amount of steps a hands-on worker needs to take,” Kim
says. “When they walk to the workstation to input or look up
information, it all comes down to ergonomics. If they take
30% fewer steps, that person is likely to sleep a little better
at night and ache a little less.”
While it’s exciting to imagine how HoloLens and other
mixed reality devices can drive key performance indicators on
the factory foor, Kim says Skylight for HoloLens is optimized
for specifc tasks, not for an entire 8-hour shift.
“It’s fair game to think the tech will evolve, and we can see
it in an all-day, everyday scenario,” Kim says. “But to drive
value now, we’ve put guardrails into the user experience,
to make sure it’s intuitive and comfortable.”
And that may be the biggest selling point for the device
that looks more appropriate for RoboCop cosplay than a
factory. You don’t need to be an experienced gamer or tech
savvy tween to instantly get a hang of things.
“Whenever I show to this to a potential customer or partner,
the best part is seeing that smile on their face when they
put on the HoloLens and realize they already know how to
use it, especially for something like moving a window,” says
Andrew Sugaya, director of product strategy. “You tap and drag
it like any other object on a smart device.”
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