On Tuesday, Microsoft announced its partnership with Kawasaki for its so-called industrial metaverse. It is a fancy way of saying factory floor staff will wear the tech giant’s HoloLens headset to help with production, managing supply chains, and repairs. It will also use the headsets to build robots.
HoloLens first launched back in 2016, allows the wearer to experience AR, which overlays digital imagery in the real world. For its industrial metaverse, the tech giant has stitched together several of its technologies like cloud computing to help workers and managers build products more rapidly and with better efficiency.
Its new strategy is to build on an industrial metaverse with HoloLens 2 headset. Besides Kawasaki, Microsoft has joined hands with other major manufacturers like Boeing and Heinz, who plan to use AR headsets in their factories.
Microsoft is also looking to capitalize on corporate-specific ventures while working with Samsung on a separate device.
Microsoft’s idea is called the “digital twin” of a workspace, which can speed up manufacturing lines and repair processes.
For instance, instead of calling a repair person to come to the factory, businesses can use HoloLens to interact with workers on-site and guide them through the repair process with visual cues from AR. It will also enable managers to ramp us new production if required, something Microsoft has been pitching to combat supply chain issues.
Though all of it may sound like a gimmick, it is something customers of Microsoft have been asking for amid buzz around metaverse and related concepts.
In an interview with CNBC, Jessica Hawk, Corporate Vice President of mixed reality at Microsoft, stated that the industrial metaverse is only a taste of what technology can accomplish now before it is fully immersive in the future.
“That is why I think you see a lot of enthusiasm in that space,” said Hawk. “These are real-world problems that businesses are dealing with, so having tech solutions that can help solve these challenges, supply chain issue, for example, is incredibly impactful.”
Microsoft’s Metaverse Mission
The burgeoning business of Microsoft reveals a lot about where things stand with the metaverse. While we have heard promises of a sci-fi future where everyone could play and socialize in VR. Its uses today have more to do with industrial applications than the average consumer’s needs.
For instance, Meta’s upcoming mixed reality headset will be more expensive than its 299 USD VR headset and will be marketed to people who wish to feel present while working remotely. One of the first products from Meta for metaverse was an app that allows you to hold meetings in VR.
However, one difference with Microsoft is it has a head start, and it is actually selling its mixed reality offerings to companies today. In addition, it is also offering developers the tools they need to make their own metaverse experiences.
“We see differentiation in how we are going about our strategy here that recognizes people going to experience the metaverse across multiple devices and platforms,” said Hawk.
It means that metaverse products that work on 2D screens and new features Microsoft added to its Teams chap last year, like the one where people can appear as digital avatars. These features can be translated to headsets and other platforms in the future.
“We are excited about its moment unlocking so much innovation,” said Hawk. “Somethings we understand today. And we recognize many more things that we haven’t yet fully realized. Hence, it is a very exciting time for us.”