This article was written by Archana Iyer, Microsoft Mixed Reality Program Manager for Object Anchors as part of our Humans of Mixed Reality Guest Blogger Series. Archana shares her personal journey into the Mixed Reality space and why she believes that mixed reality has a critical to play in society today.
My journey to Mixed Reality
Around the time I joined Microsoft in 2016, the first HoloLens device was launched. Like most other people, I thought that this looked like a product straight of a sci-fi movie. Soon after joining, I was at a Microsoft Hackathon and got a chance to try the device on. My first reaction was of shock and amazement that technology had made it so far! My head filled with ways in which this device could be used for immersive experiences in a diverse range of industries ranging from medical to retail to construction. I was intrigued from that moment on and was excited to dive in to learn more about the Mixed Reality space.
At that point, I was working on the Office 365 team on Exchange web services and the platform that powers Outlook Mobile. I had been working with services at scale for a little over a year at that point. I had minimal experience in computer vision and what goes into building a hardware device such as HoloLens. What I could do though, is write code, solve hard problems, and develop products at scale.
What I soon learned was that in addition to iterating on our hardware, the next wave of Mixed Reality needs us to move significant amounts of computing power into the cloud and making it available cross-platform for improved collaboration. Luckily, the Mixed Reality team was looking for folks with experience in the cloud computing space and who were also interested in computer vision. I jumped at this opportunity to work on a brand-new team in a rapidly evolving and unexplored space!
Why do we need the cloud?
The Mixed Reality Cloud team has the objective of providing secure and scalable services to help people create, learn, and collaborate more effectively by capturing digital information within the context of their work and world. We need the cloud to help move compute off the devices so we can improve the device form factor. It also helps unlock experiences with larger scale and for larger spaces which persist across time.
Picture this scenario:
"You are at a car maintenance factory with your coworkers. You put on your HoloLens 2 and it automatically recognizes your location using Azure Spatial Anchors (ASA) and immediately populates the real world around you with holograms. You approach a real-world car on the factory floor and Azure Object Anchors (AOA) identifies the car and properly superimposes a holographic 3D digital twin of it. You then use Azure Remote Rendering (ARR) to enhance your view, visualizing the fully detailed digital twin by leveraging the ability to offload otherwise too complex calculations to the cloud."
These (and more!) are the kinds of experiences we want to unlock for our customers and help transform the way they work.
My journey within Mixed Reality
I started this journey as a developer on ASA to help build out the multi-user cross platform experience. Through the launch of this experience, we learned a lot about our product by working closely with our partners such as Minecraft Earth. I then got the chance to help launch Azure Remote Rendering and bring that to market for our customers.
After spending some time as an engineer on the product and understanding a lot about how things work in our systems, I decided I wanted to switch to a more product-facing role. Over the past couple of months, I transitioned over to a Program Manager Role for our Object Anchors product. I look forward to learning more closely about how customers are using our Mixed Reality solutions and how we can build better products for them.
Where do I see Mixed Reality going?
Making this a widely-used technology, however, is a long road and we are still a few years away from it. The sheer potential of these technologies is huge, and has not even begun to be fully tapped yet. We are already seeing mixed reality being used in core industries including manufacturing, automotive, medical and construction spaces. With the pandemic, we already see expanding potential for how this technology can be used with remote meetings and remote learning situations (e.g. where students learnt about the human anatomy remotely). You can even listen to this podcast episode on how college professors and students at Case Western Reserve University use Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens 2 to learn about human anatomy in mixed reality.
Another good option is to join the Mixed Reality and HoloLens meetup group where you can network with different folks on the team and learn about various hackathons and advances in the Mixed Reality space.
Go build apps! Get your hands dirty with building some demos and playing around with the SDKs. Getting started with Mixed Reality toolkit video.