Standing in an empty room, with only a desk, lamp and Microsoft HoloLens headset for company, a new world emerged.
To the left danced a ballerina, to the right laid a tiger, and in front swirled the solar system, showcasing every planet - Pluto included - in explicit detail.
Through the sharp pinch of a finger, Jupiter came to life, rotating around the room as if the norm, setting up home next to the physical lamp shade.
In merging real and virtual worlds, producing surreal environments and visualisations along the way, Microsoft is bringing new meaning to mixed reality.
Highlighted as the showcase product of Microsoft Ignite New Zealand in Auckland this week, Redmond’s role is bringing augmented reality (AR) to the masses is escalating.
But amidst the clamour for demonstrations and trials, one key question remains - can HoloLens hit the mark in business?
For a hefty price tag of NZ$7829, the Microsoft HoloLens Commercial Suite includes the Development Edition, which covers enterprise features for added security and device management, as well as a warranty on top.
Now available for pre-order in New Zealand, the world’s first self-contained holographic computer will start shipping in late November, tapping into an ever-increasing global market.
With worldwide revenues for the AR and virtual reality (VR) markets forecast to grow from $US5.2 billion in 2016 to more than $US162 billion in 2020, IDC findings show that this industry is no longer the stuff of science fiction.
“With AR, users are able to interact with virtual contents in the real world, and are able to distinguish between the two,” Datacom general manager of Transformation and Innovation, Kerry Topp, explained.
“Beyond fun and engaging games like Pokémon Go, reality experiences are currently used in a range of industries, including entertainment, medicine, education, construction, architecture and government.
“In my view, reality experiences have now reached the point where humans can interact with it in completely natural ways, from visualisation to gesture and speech recognition, which allows us to be much more efficient and do things we could never have done before.”
In operating for over half a century in New Zealand, and as the country's largest technology provider, Topp said Datacom exercises caution and avoids simply “jumping on bandwagons” upon the launch of new product announcements, despite growing industry interest and intrigue.
“Our approach here is simple; to assess the technology with direct customer input and feedback,” he said.
Locally speaking, Datacom is leading the way in New Zealand from an AR perspective, launching the first HoloLens practice on both sides of the Tasman earlier this year.
“Since landing the first HoloLens development kit in New Zealand we have seen strong demand from customers wanting to know more about augmented, virtual and mixed reality,” Topp said.
“We are seeing widespread and surprising uses for this new technology across our customer base and predict it will become even more mainstream in the coming years based on IDC’s projections.
“Datacom already has some of our own customers actively prototyping and encouragingly, we have more in the pipeline.”
As reported by Reseller News, Datacom’s first real-world project in New Zealand is with Auckland Museum and the University of Auckland’s Information Systems and Operations Management Department.
Using Datacom’s HoloLens units to explore ways in which the collaboration functions of HoloLens can be harnessed, the project allows users to share the same view of museum collection objects that have been scanned into 3D holographic images, despite the viewers being in different locations.
In addition, HoloLens technology also enables users to view real-world objects from a remote location through another person’s HoloLens device, and to discuss and annotate in that person’s field of vision in a natural way.
The AR/VR Garage
Furthermore, Datacom recently became the first corporate partner of The AR/VR Garage - a collaborative R&D facility in Auckland, designed to accelerate the use of AR and VR tools and technologies across New Zealand.
Specialising in AR/VR technology, The AR/VR Garage is a place where start-ups work with major corporates, tertiary institutions, and local and central government agencies, taking ideas to the wider market.
“Datacom’s involvement in the AR/VR Garage is again a direct response to the significant interest and desire we have seen by our customers to get hand-on with the experience,” Topp added.
“In our view, The Garage is an excellent way to develop a safe environment to test potential AR use cases and to use the strength of GridAKL to tap into new groups of early adopters to engage with the AR ecosystem.”
Globally speaking, Microsoft currently counts Audi, Volvo, Saab Australia, Japan Airlines and Airbus Group among many as key customers within the HoloLens space.
On the ground in New Zealand, increased partner investment and customer demand is combining to create new waves of adoption on Kiwi shores.
While still in its early days, the ripple effect is that Microsoft is on the way to turning a one-time cool piece of technology into a money-making business reality.
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