How will augmented and mixed reality change our day to day life and work? By Rachel Arthur
Microsoft’s HoloLens has been hailed as the future of computing. A mixed reality device, it enables users to see holograms in the real world around them, creating a powerful and interactive 3D experience like never before. Lee Schuneman is Studio Head at Microsoft’s Lift London, and it’s his responsibility to develop experiences for the technology.
What is it you do at Lift London?
The role of the studio is to develop exciting and interactive products to help connect people to Microsoft in new ways. At Lift London, this is focused on some key trends:
The first is that 3D computing is happening but is just beginning. We're on this incredible journey with virtual reality, mixed reality and augmented reality right now - you only have to see what Pokémon Go did recently; there's real appetite for these sort of experiences.
The next trend we’re looking into is a generational one. When you think about millennials, they’ve all grown up with a life online and a life playing video games, so their expectation of software from a work perspective is really informed by that.
The final trend is that creativity in general is becoming more important within business. As the millennial workforce changes, the need to be creative at work and at home is really coming to the forefront.
Why do you think 3D computing makes sense for the future?
Our brains are attuned to work and operate in 3D. The power of mixed reality computing is that it puts people, information and objects in the real world with you, so your brain connects with it immediately. When you’re interacting in any experience today, the more you connect it back to what you do naturally day-to-day, the simpler it is for the user to experience it.
For example, there is a great HoloLens demo with Case Western University focused on educating students about the human body. When you see a heart or skeleton in front of you rather than just on a 2D screen, your ability to understand it is massively improved.
What other opportunities does HoloLens bring?
It’s pretty limitless. Education is an obvious first touch point because learning in three dimensions transforms the whole process, but it will also be big for engineering and design – the ability to create using HoloLens is just amazing.
Then there is of course the entertainment aspect – we’ve demonstrated [video game] Minecraft on HoloLens and through a partnership with the NFL, we’ve shown how we can change people’s engagement with live sports. That was really interesting because it was about using a holographic computer to enhance the TV experience. It takes all the stats of the game and puts them on your coffee table, then the players burst out of the wall and stand in your living room with you; they’re life sized humans made from light.
How will it impact the majority of us in our day-to-day?
It will be very transformational for work and for home. My favourite example we’ve shown is having someone somewhere else in the world providing live info to you through mixed reality. So, if you’re stuck with a problem like plumbing for instance, the other person can instruct you by drawing on their 2D screen and it appears in front of you on HoloLens.
When will this mixed reality world become mainstream?
In many respects it’s here today, but it’s not really a tech story anymore, it’s about what we as humans do and how we innovate when we use these devices. That’s what will lead us on our journey more than anything now. A lot of tech can sometimes be tech for tech’s sake. In this case, it’s tech that really connects with you on a human level and I think there’s limitless power in that.