When we hear Microsoft, we can’t help but expect but hear the upcoming HoloLens 2 drums in the background. But before that comes to be, Microsoft figures, their Windows Mixed Reality platform needs to widen in scope. Hence the news today – Microsoft is launching two HoloLens apps for Android and iOS in hope to promote WMR to smartphone users. The apps in question are Dynamics 365 Remote Assist for Android and Product Visualize for iOS, both as preview features.
This is hardly doubling down on its priced brand, but neither is it a sign that Microsoft is shifting too much. It looks to be a sensible move that would bring more people into contact with Microsoft platform, just in time of (possible) HoloLens 2 promotion. HoloLens apps for Android and iOS will arrive in April, and will offer premium, hitherto HoloLens exclusive features to a wider user pool.
Neither of the features are consumer-friendly – they are designed with professional environment in mind. Take the first one on the list: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist was launched last year with the idea of enhancing collaboration between colleagues. HoloLens built-in camera serves as eyes through which more a experienced worker can see, and therefore help with anything, anytime. Not to mention the HoloLens capacity for AR creation whereby users can pin, annotate, or improve the given image and offer/execute advice in real time. With Android version of Remote Assist, users simply point cameras to share their vision and enjoy the same level of fast communication. ‘It’s different than just turning the camera around’, Lorraine Bardeen of Microsoft said, ‘because the person on the other side, they’re seeing the problem and they can annotate into the real world’.
Functionality of the original WMR app is retained, save for the obvious lack of advanced MR features of HoloLens. So much for the HoloLens Apps for Android. iOS too gets its fair share of WMR goodies, but this time a brand-new app called Dynamics 365 Product Visualize. It is aimed at salespeople helping them showcase AR images of complex products. It is a powerful tool that provides in-context images of cars, machinery, or any similar large-scale equipment. The app is very much a simplified version of HoloLens Layout feature, one that will make it to the HoloLens proper in due course.
Windows Mixed Reality is extending its hand towards smartphone users, and HoloLens apps for Android and iOS are a clear signal. Down to their sheer abundance, smartphones are currently the number one AR devices people are willing to indulge in despite their current limitations. ‘Any product that we make available for HoloLens, of course we’ll evaluate how much value is there for our customers in bringing those to mobile as well’, Bardeen concludes. Microsoft seems conscious of the reality that 5G is coming to our phones. Still, for Microsoft, Smartphone AR is a perfect platform to get people used to using AR in their work environment. Phones will serve you well, Microsoft seems to be saying, but wait until HoloLens 2 comes out.