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Hololens, the future of the desktop?

According to a study by The University of Utah, employees are 20-30% more efficient with dual monitors compared to one monitor. In some offices, it’s common to see many more monitors per employee, especially if their job is about dealing with large amounts of information.

According to a study by The University of Utah, employees are 20-30% more efficient with dual monitors compared to one monitor. In some offices, it’s common to see many more monitors per employee, especially if their job is about dealing with large amounts of information.

This is why Microsoft’s highly innovative Hololens is an intriguing product, which could signal the way desktop computing might be heading in. Not only does it provide a much wider field of vision, compared to using a monitor, but also means users can have a large number of apps running at different times, or pin them to physical walls.

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Take the example of Trimble, a design solution company helping architects and structural engineers. Over the past few months, the company has been using Hololens to visualise buildings both inside and out, prior to any construction work actually taking place. Though design companies have been able to use 3D mapping and models for a while, being able to walk through a space, helps them see problems that they’d otherwise miss.

“Trimble has a mission to deliver solutions that transform the user experience and work processes in many industries,” said Bryn Fosburgh, vice president responsible for Trimble’s Construction Technology Divisions. “We believe that HoloLens is a game-changer for design and construction teams by facilitating improved communication, and enhanced transparency. We’re excited to partner with Microsoft in creating what could be a new era for technology in the AEC market.”

NASA is another organisation that’s used Hololens to provide scientists with the ability to effectively walk around the surface of Mars, based on data sent from the Mars Rover. The team created a new app called OnSight to utilise within Hololens.

“OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices,” said Dave Lavery, program executive for the Mars Science Laboratory mission at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It fundamentally changes our perception of Mars, and how we understand the Mars environment surrounding the rover.”

Until now, rover operations required scientists to examine Mars imagery on a computer screen, and make inferences about what they are seeing. But images, even 3-D stereo views, lack a natural sense of depth that human vision employs to understand spatial relationships.

The OnSight system uses holographic computing to overlay visual information and rover data into the user’s field of view. Holographic computing blends a view of the physical world with computer-generated imagery to create a hybrid of real and virtual.

Whilst these are very specific use cases, about visualising data, it does point to what is possible when you take computing from a screen to a virtual environment. Not only do devices like Hololens make it easier to work on private documents, because no-one else can see your screen, but it also provides you with a much bigger canvas to work from. Should you need to work collaboratively, Hololens points towards being able to have a live conference where you can share the same screens with colleagues, no matter where they are.

Whilst it is clear that Hololens has potential inside offices, it could also be utilised by teams in the field, to bring employees who are office based into the same environment they are in. This could be used to speed through decisions, reduce travel costs and deliver other benefits to employees.

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We aren’t saying that screens will disappear, far from it. Screens remain highly important for sharing information with people you are physically with. Whether it’s gathering round a screen, passing a tablet, looking at a smartwatch or watching a presentation on a TV or large screen display, screens very much have their place.

There are of course going to be questions as to whether or not devices like Hololens will go the way of 3D TV’s. Though there was a lot of excitement around the technology, the user experience didn’t necessarily add enough to overcome the issue of having to physically wear something on your face.

After all, what would it be like to walk into an office where everyone is walking around with something over their face, where you can still see their eyes, but feel that there’s a barrier between you? Everyone is happy to wear sunglasses in sunny weather, because the alternative is to squint and not be able to see very well. This is almost the challenge that face based wearables have to meet and overcome, providing enough additional vision that helps people, rather than gets in their way.

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