“When the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge are imbued with mixed reality and artificial intelligence, we have a framework for achieving amazing things and empowering even more people.” – Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO speaking at the HoloLens 2 launch

At Microsoft Build 2020, we shared some exciting mixed reality news that is helping us create a new reality for empowering organizations and people to achieve more. This blog post highlights some of that news across the following areas:

  • Strong adoption of HoloLens 2 is driving us to expand availability into new markets.
  • Our Azure mixed reality cloud services are now broadly available.
  • HoloLens 2 and mixed reality are empowering firstline workers through the global pandemic.

HoloLens 2 expands to new markets this Fall

HoloLens 2 is currently available in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In these markets, industry-leading companies in manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and education are using enterprise mixed reality applications to improve the productivity and quality of work for firstline workers. As you can see in the video below, with HoloLens 2 and Azure, these organizations are simultaneously driving faster training and up-skilling of employees, decreased task and process completion time, and reduced error rates and waste driving global demand for these solutions.

A link to the Holo Lens video

Below are a few key news items that will expand our HoloLens 2 impact:

  • HoloLens 2 will begin shipping to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan in Q4 2020.
  • Online sales of HoloLens 2 will start on the Microsoft Store in July 2020.

In response to feedback from our customers and partners, we have just shipped a software update for HoloLens 2, which includes these exciting new capabilities:

  • Reconfigure and seamlessly set up new devices for enterprise production with Windows AutoPilot.
  • Enroll HoloLens with your Mobile Device Management system using a provisioning package.
  • Hand Tracking improvements.
  • Support for additional system voice commands to control HoloLens, hands-free.
  • Expanded USB Ethernet enables support for 5G/LTE dongles.

Review the release notes to learn about all of the new capabilities.

Azure mixed reality services now broadly available

As we outlined above, mixed reality is changing the way we work in industries including manufacturing, healthcare, and retail. These changes are only possible by bringing the power of edge computing together with the cloud to create seamless, immersive experiences.

With Azure, we are making a suite of mixed reality services available to make it easier than ever for developers to build immersive, 3D applications, and experiences for mixed reality headsets (such as HoloLens) or AR-enabled phones (iOS and Android). 

Azure Spatial Anchors is helping enterprise and gaming developers to more easily build applications that can map, persist, and share 3D content at real-world scale. Applications using Azure Spatial Anchors leverage the scale and security of Azure to consistently and reliably render 3D content across HoloLens, iOS, and Android devices. Azure Spatial Anchors is now generally available.

Here are a few quotes from customers using Azure Spatial Anchors:

“Connecting the digital with the physical worlds is full of challenges. Azure Spatial Anchors is the only service that supports Hololens, iOS, and Android, making it the perfect fit for Spatial. The service works quickly, and is extremely reliable. Setting up Azure Spatial Anchors in our existing Azure Cloud account was simple, and allowed us to use a service we’re already familiar with.” – Mo Ben-Zacharia, CTO, Spatial.io 

See how Spatial is using Azure Spatial Anchors to enable the future of collaboration.

“Our service, Augmented Store At Home, is totally based on Azure Spatial Anchors. Being able to share and persist high-quality, 3D assets would not be possible otherwise. The capability of the sharing experience is simple and almost transparent for the user. We chose Azure Spatial Anchors because of the accuracy and for the cross-platform capabilities.” – Vincenzo Mazzone, CTO, Hevolus  

See how Hevolus is using Azure Spatial Anchors to drive the future of retail.

Azure Remote Rendering lets enterprise developers in industries including manufacturing, engineering, construction, and retail bring the highest quality 3D content and interactive experiences to mixed reality devices, such as HoloLens 2. This service uses the computing power of Azure to render even the most complex models in the cloud and streams them in real-time to your devices, so users can interact and collaborate with 3D content in amazing detail. Azure Remote Rendering is now in preview. 

To learn more about our Azure mixed reality offerings for developers, we encourage you to consider attending Mixed Reality Dev Days 2020, a virtual event coinciding with Build, designed to learn from experts and connect with the mixed reality developer community.

A new reality for healthcare

While the momentum across HoloLens and our mixed reality services is happening across many industries, this is especially evident in healthcare. We are harnessing the power of mixed reality to assist the firstline workers manufacturing PPE devices and ventilators, as well as those providing direct patient care. Here are a few of these examples:

Ventilator Challenge, United Kingdom: A consortium of major industrial, technology, and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive, and medical sectors have come together to produce medical ventilators for the National Health Services. Microsoft HoloLens devices, running PTC’s Vuforia Expert Capture software, are being used to train thousands of firstline workers on how to assemble the equipment. The worker are guided by visual, 3D, immersive instructions every step of the way. In the event these workers need help with assembly, they are leveraging Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, which enables hands-free video calling on the HoloLens to let operators collaborate with experts on a PC or mobile device.

Dick Elsy, Chief Executive, High Value Manufacturing Catapult and Consortium lead, describes the impact of mixed reality on their efforts.“Ensuring the NHS has enough ventilators to treat patients with advanced COVID-19 symptoms has been critical to the UK’s continued battle against the disease. Microsoft and its partners have been instrumental in providing the tools that have enabled the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium members to collaborate effectively, manage complex supply chains and train staff in new manufacturing procedures. In doing so, we’ve been able to gear up to manufacture ten years’ worth of ventilators in just ten weeks.” 

Learn more about the role of mixed reality and this consortium’s work.

Case Western Reserve University, United States: Remote learning at one of the nation’s premiere research institutions and medical schools has just taken on a new dimension. For the first time ever, instead of working together on campus, all 185 first-year students from Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine are using Microsoft HoloLens 2 and the university’s signature HoloAnatomy mixed-reality software, despite the physical separation created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The remote-learning application of HoloAnatomy is believed to be the first of its kind in the world and the latest advance in the educational use of the holographic headset by Case Western Reserve.

Mark Griswold, a professor of radiology who is one of the faculty leaders for HoloAnatomy states, “This unfortunate crisis has become an opportunity to prove that we could extend the reach of HoloLens education. It’s about making the world smaller, making the campus smaller, and getting people together to experience the same thing from anywhere.” 

View a video compilation of the first several classes.

Avicenne Hospital/APHP Group, France: HoloLens 2 and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist are being used on the front lines by doctors and nurses. Mixed reality is enabling multiple medical professionals to jointly participate in visits and consultations, while limiting the number of healthcare employees exposed to each patient. And by using mixed reality to access virtual 3D copies of patient records, they are eliminating the passing of physical charts and reducing the number of times a doctor or nurse needs to touch equipment, helping them to minimize exposure, while ensuring great patient care.

See Microsoft HoloLens being used in hospitals and learn more from Dr. Thomas Gregory.

Next steps with HoloLens 2

Learn more about how Microsoft HoloLens 2 and mixed reality can help your organization to achieve more.