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Accelerating Mixed Reality

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The University of Hull has launched an accelerator dedicated to developing Mixed Reality tech for the Microsoft HoloLens.

The University of Hull’s Mixed Reality accelerator was recently launched with the remit of promoting collaboration between industry and academia to develop commercial applications for Microsoft HoloLens. It is led by VISR a company founded in 2015 by veteran Xbox games developer Louis Deane and his business partner Lindsay West. They were one of the earliest Microsoft Mixed Reality partners in Europe.

The University of Hull’s Mixed Reality accelerator is promoting collaboration between industry and academia to develop commercial applications for Microsoft HoloLens Click To Tweet

John Hemingway, Director of ICT at the University of Hull explains that hosting the Mixed Reality Accelerator was a natural progression for the University, as it taps into the institution’s history of computer games development, virtual reality and 3D visualization developed over the past 30 years.

University of Hull Tech Trends Mixed Reality Microsoft HoloLens Accelerator

 

“As a University, it’s important for us to not only lead from the front when it comes to cutting-edge technologies, but also to look at how those technologies allow us to create ever more skilled and work-ready graduates. sWhat we’ve created marks the first HoloLens accelerator of its kind, giving some of our brightest students the opportunity to work alongside a number of leading brands to help solve real-life problems.”

The program was specifically formulated to help industry to fast-track the adoption of Mixed Reality technology and build the participating students towards being experts in this new field of computing. It will see 24 of the University’s computer science and digital media students working alongside global companies such as car maker Audi, global drinks brand AB InBev and energy company Centrica. These companies are exploring how best to leverage immersive technologies to improve communication, efficiency, safety and product quality.

The program was formulated to help industry to fast-track the adoption of Mixed Reality technology Click To Tweet

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‘Team Audi’ member Cosmin Dragu, who is a University of Hull Computer Science graduate, said: “Ours is an ambitious project that has seen us combining technologies in ways that have not been done before, involving both machine learning and image recognition to create an interactive user experience, showing them how to construct an engine from scratch.

“For me personally, this is a new area of research I have wanted to get into for some time now and I’m excited because I’m also having the chance to use technologies I’m familiar with in new ways.”

Leila Martine, Microsoft’s Product Marketing Director, explains that working with enterprise to tackle real challenges is key:

“In this era of profound digital disruption, the majority of industries will experience significant change within two years. It is therefore vital that technology partners and universities come together to create a streamlined approach for the creation of meaningful proof of concepts, which can be quickly tested and return-on-investment (ROI) validated in a way that can then be taken forward by an organization and integrated into their existing business processes.

Centrica, for example, plans to use the technology to develop 3D modeling of the Easington gas terminal to improve safety and efficiency. VISR Managing Director Louis Deane believes that these kinds of solutions have the potential to streamline processes, improve safety and potentially change the way in which billions of workers do their jobs over the next 10 years.

“Being involved in the change curve that is Mixed Reality development is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students involved in our accelerator and they’ll be able to look back in 10 or 20 years’ time and say ‘I helped create that’.”

Centrica plans to use Mixed Reality to develop 3D modeling of the Easington gas terminal to improve safety and efficiency Click To Tweet

Deane also hopes that in the context of escalating Brexit uncertainty, programs such as these can provide some much-needed fresh international trade opportunities for the local and broader U.K. economy.

“The program has far-reaching implications for the U.K. economy at a time of considerable uncertainty related to the country’s relationship with the European Union. The great thing about technology like this, is that it is truly borderless and reaches across jurisdictions and cultures, and everyone can benefit from technology which connects and empowers workers.”

Tech Trends University of Hull Mixed Reality Microsoft HoloLens Accelerator VR Consultancy

“The practical digital skills training that University of Hull students receive will not only help their employability prospects but also ensure that U.K. companies get state-of-the-art talent to transform the way we create, collaborate and explore in the future. As a result of the program, I expect to see ground-breaking spatial computing experiences with demonstrable impact,” agrees Martine.

Deane adds that the shift we are going to see as a result of this technology over the next 10 to 15 years is going to be astronomical, and that more companies are now grasping transformative opportunity that this technology represents.

“The car engineer of the future is going to work very differently to the way they work today. It’s exciting because, fundamentally, the task of repairing vehicles has operationally been the same for decades and we have an opportunity to change it. The engineer can now work in an environment where, as they approach a vehicle, the HoloLens can recognize where the work has to be carried out and provide direct visual instructions overlaid on the car. Pair this with intelligent devices, such as robots that bring the exact required parts and tools so they’re at hand and work with the technician to make them more efficient, and suddenly you’re looking at huge increases in cost savings and productivity.”

In order to make this a reality, Deane explains that three key ingredients are needed: devices which are capable of providing this kind of smart data, a platform powerful enough to do something meaningful with it, and people skilled enough to author such a system. “In Hull we have all three,” he says.

Michael Codd, AB InBev’s Digital Marketing and Innovation Lead for Europe, adds: “We’re looking at using the technology in the future to empower the pubs by targeting and optimising their activities, benefiting us as a supplier, the outlets themselves and, importantly, the end consumer, whose needs will be better served.”

The program has far-reaching implications for the U.K. economy at a time of considerable uncertainty related to Brexit Click To Tweet

Jan Pflueger, Coordination AR & VR, Center of Competence AR & VR at Audi AG, explains that his company is looking to use visual and spatial computing to improve context awareness and workflow to support its technicians.

“For us, it is a great opportunity to bring our experience and vision of future use cases in contact with the experts in the different fields, added with the creativity and knowledge of the team at the University.”

Such programs that foster collaboration between education institutions with private businesses and industry are key to Microsoft’s strategy, and evidence shows that it’s proving effective as industry is steadily embracing Mixed Reality. Much like the recent introduction of Mixed Reality as a service by Microsoft, it is part of a steady push to get more enterprises (of all sizes) to experience the tangible benefits that immersive tech can bring to their businesses.

This article was originally published on Forbes

 


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Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio and @techtrends_tech on Twitter.


Also published on Medium.