Microsoft partners with Kawasaki on the industrial metaverse

Microsoft’s HoloLens 2.

Andrea Evers | CNBC

You may not be ready to enter the metaverse for fun, but it may start working sooner than you think.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced that Kawasaki is a new customer for the tech giant’s so-called “industrial metaverse” – a fancy way of saying that factory workers will be wearing a HoloLens headset to help with manufacturing, repairs and supply chain management. . He will use headphones to help build robots.

HoloLens, first launched in 2016, allows the wearer to experience augmented reality, which places digital images on the real world. For Microsoft’s industrial metaverse, that means merging many of Microsoft’s technologies like cloud computing to help workers and executives build things faster and more efficiently.

In Microsoft’s industrial metaverse, this means creating what the company calls a “digital twin” of a workspace. This speeds up processes such as repairs and the start-up of new production lines.

For example, instead of calling a repairman to go to the factory to fix a broken part, they can use a HoloLens to chat with an on-site worker and guide him through the repair process with augmented reality visual cues. It also allows managers to use the digital twin to start a new production if needed ⁠, something Microsoft proposes as a way to combat supply chain problems.

It’s not just Kawasaki that uses technology. Heinz announced earlier this spring that he will begin using Microsoft’s industrial metaverse in its ketchup factories. Boeing he also uses it for production.

While it may seem like a gimmick, it’s something Microsoft’s customers have been asking for as the buzz builds around the concept of the metaverse. Jessica Hawk, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for mixed reality, told CNBC in an interview last week that the industrial metaverse is a taste of what technology enables today before arriving at a future where the metaverse is fully immersive. .

“That’s why I think you’re seeing a lot of energy in that space,” Hawk said. “These are real-world problems these companies face … so having a technology solution that can help unlock the supply chain challenge, for example, has an incredible impact.”

Microsoft’s burgeoning business says a lot about where things stand with the metaverse. While we’ve heard promises of a sci-fi future where everyone works, plays and socializes in virtual reality, the companies that develop it today start with the enterprise, not the average consumer.

For instance, A halfThe upcoming mixed reality headsets will be more expensive than the $ 299 virtual reality headsets and will be marketed for people who want to feel “present” while working remotely. In fact, one of Meta’s first metaverse products was an app that lets you hold virtual reality meetings.

But the difference is that Microsoft has an edge and today sells its mixed reality technology to real companies, while also giving developers the tools they need to create their own metaverse experiences.

“We really see a differentiation in how we are pursuing our strategy that recognizes that people will experience the metaverse on a variety of devices and platforms,” ​​Hawk said.

This means metaverse products that also work on 2D screens, like the new features Microsoft added to its Teams chat app last year where people can appear as digital avatars. This kind of functionality can be translated into headsets and other platforms in the future.

“We are really excited that this is a moment that is unlocking so much innovation,” Hawk said. Some things we understand today. And we recognize many, many other things that we have not yet fully realized. So it’s a very exciting time for us. “

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