Why now is the time for Mixed Reality business apps

Written by Wouter Martens

Did you know that the first Mixed Reality system (called ‘Virtual Fixtures’) was already developed in the early 1990s at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory?

Their research involved two real physical robots, controlled by a full upper-body exoskeleton worn by the user. Impressive… but by no means portable. A lot of other Mixed Reality hardware was developed across the globe in the years following, but nothing quite as sophisticated or innovative as the HoloLens 1 introduced by Microsoft in 2016. We acknowledge that it has been 4 years already since this ground-breaking platform appeared for the first time… But like many disruptive technologies, it went through the ‘hype-cycle’ for emerging technologies:

In 2018, Gartner considered Mixed Reality to be in the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’. People (and companies) were exploring the technology and its value for their business, but they had difficulties actually building the applications they were imagining. According to us, this was partly because there was no solid software foundation to empower the hardware of the HoloLens.

One year later, in 2019, Gartner removed Mixed Reality from its hype-cycle, and confirmed that the technology was growing up:

While continuing to be important technologies, AR and MR are rapidly approaching a much more mature state, which moves them off the emerging technology class of innovation profiles.

Gartner, August 2019.

A solid software foundation

Here at Mr. Watts we couldn’t agree more. While our enthusiasm about Mixed Reality never lingered, we are very pleased to see a proper software foundation emerging:

  • A few months ago, Microsoft released the second version of their Mixed Reality ToolKit (MRTK). This Software Development Kit allows developers (like us) to create interfaces and user experiences that feel very natural and behave similarly to objects in the real world. We believe this will cause the same evolution for smartglasses as Apple’s UIKit SDK (for iOS) did for smartphones and tablet computers; making touchscreens work smooth and gesture-based. And look where they are today: Because of Apple’s vision on interaction, touchscreen devices are the heart of many business processes and workflows, and of course our daily lives.
  • Next to that, Microsoft ensures an easy and seamless integration with services from Azure and Dynamics into Mixed Reality apps. More than ever, this makes smartglasses suitable to support workflows and collect (or process) any kind of business data, especially when enriched with Artificial Intelligence.
  • Unity, one of the leading 3D engine and development environment suppliers for building Mixed Reality apps, is working on project MARS; a Mixed and Augmented Reality Studio. This new toolset is specifically designed to help developers create immersive experiences.

Smartglasses in the field

Also worth noting, though not related to software, is the appearance of Trimble’s XR10 with HoloLens 2. They offer a complete headset including a safety helmet for bringing Mixed Reality apps into the field, on construction sites and industrial environments. Together with the software foundation described above, this smart-glasses-meets-safety-gear-combo perfectly suits the apps we envision to build.

For all of these reasons, combined with our deep understanding of technology and software, we say that now is the perfect time to start focusing on Mixed Reality business apps

To get the full picture of Mr. Watts and why we focus on the Microsoft HoloLens, check out our other blog: 

> Mr. Watts: Welcome to the era of smartglasses