While some people are excited by the prospect of how HoloLens could be used for gaming, Microsoft has focused far more on how its holographic headset could be used to transform the way that businesses operate.
At its Worldwide Partner Conference in July, Microsoft showed how Japan Airlines has been using HoloLens to improve training for its fleet engineers. Automotive giant Volvo teamed up with Microsoft to explore how holograms could change the process of buying a new car. And NASA has been using HoloLens to help in the development of its new Mars Rover, as well as using the headset aboard the International Space Station.
Many of the business scenarios in which HoloLens has been used so far have been 'experimental'; limited trials to consider ways of putting the headset to good use. But today, Microsoft announced details of a major new partnership with German industrial engineering giant thyssenkrupp, in an effort "to transform the global elevator industry".
Most of us take elevators for granted, but all over the world, more than 12 million of them transport over a billion people every day. Keeping these functional machines operating efficiently may not be a particularly glamorous task, but it's certainly an important one. The global elevator industry is currently valued at over $44 billion a year, but is predicted to grow to $56.3 billion by 2019.
That makes today's announcement pretty significant, as thyssenkrupp is integrating HoloLens into the day-to-day operations of its 24,000 elevator service engineers.
Using HoloLens, Microsoft says, these technicians "can now visualize and identify problems ahead of a job, and have remote, hands-free access to technical and expert information when onsite", helping them to work more efficiently and safely.
With Skype on HoloLens, technicians can be hands free while on the job, even when making remote calls to subject-matter experts and sharing holographic instructions between users. This enables more flexibility while also complying with safety regulations.
Technicians can now combine the use of the holographic headset with thyssenkrupp's own service solution, MAX. The company partnered with Microsoft and CGI last October to develop the MAX system, which harnesses the power of Microsoft's Azure IoT platform to establish 'predictive maintenance capabilities' - a first in the elevator industry.
MAX captures data on all aspects of each elevator's operations - "from motor temperature to shaft alignment, cab speed and door functioning". With this data being proactively monitored and analyzed through the Microsoft cloud, MAX is able to provide thyssenkrupp engineers with "instant diagnostic capabilities, and rich, real-time data visualization" to help them stay on top of the maintenance requirements for each elevator that they service.
By integrating HoloLens as part of its maintenance solution, thyssenkrupp said that its engineers are already enjoying "significant savings in time and stress". It added that initial field trials of HoloLens allowed technicians to complete onsite maintenance work "up to four times faster than before".
You can get an overview of how thyssenkrupp engineers are using HoloLens in the video below:
Microsoft is hoping to encourage more businesses of all sizes to explore the capabilities of its holographic headset. Last month, it removed the waiting list for those hoping to buy the device, allowing businesses and developers in the US and Canada to purchase up to five units. It also launched the HoloLens Commercial Suite, introducing enterprise security and device management features for the headset.