This article is written by Cem Kolukisa, a Microsoft Digital Technical Specialist in Dublin who shares his thoughts on mixed reality journey as part of our Humans of Mixed Reality series. Cem provides insights on how we can use mixed reality to solve problems more effectively while avoiding travel, enabling us to be more productive while minimizing travel costs and risks.
When I look back, I remember that I crossed paths with Mixed Reality for the very first time via a $5 VR Box that I ordered online. My goal at the time was just to try understanding this fascinating new technology. When I look how far Mixed Reality technology has come since then, maybe we can say that those times were the pivotal baby steps for the technology.
Back then, I had to physically put my phone inside the VR Box. The user experience was quite frustrating. But it was still extremely exciting. It was not difficult to foresee that this technology would become truly transformational - life-changing, even- after a while. Of course, I must mention the Pokémon GO madness that took the world by storm. Yes, I was one of those who hunted Pokémons on the streets! Thanks to Augmented Reality, we were able to experience our favorite cartoon from our childhood. Many people - whether they were young or full-grown adults- have certainly experienced hunting AR Pokémons on the streets for a while.
Image credit: The New York Times (2020)
Of course, while these baby steps were being taken and everyone was casually experimenting with VR or AR games, I was constantly following the news about HoloLens. Basically, the most important reason for my interest was the device itself - a sophisticated computer on its own that did not rely on a mobile phone screen like the now seemingly primitive VR Box derivatives. The user experience that HoloLens offered greatly impressed me. What we could do with this glasses-shaped, head-mounted computer seemed limitless. Then I had the chance to experience HoloLens at a tech fair. As I expected, the experience was way better than the derivatives. During all those years, a lot of companies invested in HoloLens and the Mixed Reality devices. It created a big market for 3rd party applications on these devices. It was obvious to me even back then how this technology would make a big difference especially in areas such as production, retail, maintenance, and health. The real question was, how fast could this change take place? How fast can we adapt to this technology?
I remember the old days when we had to travel or fly thousands of kilometers for a single meeting, a maintenance operation or a small problem… At this point, we can all agree that the COVID-19 pandemic had a catalyst effect in prompting organizations to accelerate their digital transformation. When travel restrictions were imposed and organizations had no other alternatives, we were all forced to adapt. This necessity caused us to understand what kind of a mine lies under the surface.
Right around the time that these developments were taking place, I joined the Microsoft family and started working on Microsoft's Mixed Reality products. On the one hand, I was trying to get to know the products closely and learn what they can do; on the other hand, I was trying to meet the requirements of our customers in these difficult and unprecedented times. As a team, we helped support the rapid activation of Dynamics 365 Remote Assist in many companies especially in the critical manufacturing sector. In the period that we could not even leave our homes, it was very satisfying to see that our customers were still able to connect to their locations thousands of kilometers away, resolve issues remotely and increase collaboration. Thanks to mixed reality, we can solve problems more effectively while avoiding travel, minimizing risk and yet still become more productive.
This isn’t merely a futuristic concept anymore - this is already here and now. But what's next? Here's my personal take:
For the time being, these technologies are still largely 1:1 and device-dependent. If we assume that remote working, remote meetings and remote problem-solving will become the norm, it's likely that the experience will evolve to become 1-to-many. Microsoft has already announced a new product called Mesh a few months ago. It is a technology that helps us to work with colleagues from across the globe digitally. You would be able to feel the presence and share experiences as if you are face-to-face. We can create a common understanding and arrive at more informed decisions even remotely. Soon, with mixed reality, you could work and feel like you are with your colleagues in the same place even if you're physically far apart.
Furthermore, it not only has native cross-platform support but also a developer platform built on Azure Infrastructure. This amazes me the most! Just picture it: a platform that helps everyday developers build their own custom Mixed Reality solutions. Imagine all the creative ideas and solutions we can develop together!
I think we’ll see that the market is getting bigger and bigger every year, and it will start becoming more seamlessly integrated into our lives. While the definition of workplaces and challenges for each industry are rapidly changing, Mixed Reality applications will be our helpers to make life and work easier for us all. I am excited for the future of Mixed Reality, and hope you will get to experience this journey for yourself too!