Microsoft is rolling out its mixed-reality headset HoloLens to almost 30 additional countries in Europe.
HoloLens will now be available in 39 countries worldwide, including Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Spain, as Microsoft tries to sell businesses on the idea that the headset can support new and better ways of working.
Microsoft believes one of the major selling points of the HoloLens for businesses is its ability to let experts remotely aid technicians working in the field more easily, using HoloLens' ability to superimpose digital information in the wearer's field of view.
Elevator company ThyssenKrupp has been trialling the use of HoloLens to help engineers carry out maintenance, with HoloLens allowing a remote engineer to both see what the on-site technician can see, via a camera on the HoloLens, and to digitally annotate objects in the technician's vision, for example to highlight components that need fixing.
In a trial, an engineer using HoloLens to communicate with a colleague for the first time was able to solve a fault that normally would take two hours -- or even require having another engineer on-site -- in 20 minutes.
At the moment this remote instruction capability relies on using Skype with HoloLens, but to make it easier for more businesses to use, Microsoft will make a similar remote instruction capability using HoloLens available via Microsoft Teams and Azure Active Directory from Q1 next year.
Beyond remote assistance, Microsoft also sees HoloLens as playing a role in training employees businesses and in planing the layout of real-world spaces, as well as making it easier for remote workers to collaborate in meetings.
Speaking at Microsoft's Future Decoded conference in London today, Lorraine Bardeen, general manager Windows and HoloLens, said the HoloLens was already being used by a range of major companies, including Saab, Audi, Lowes and Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Microsoft is betting that HoloLens will allow an additional 1.7 billion workers to make greater use of computing in their day-to-day work. Dubbing them "firstline workers", Microsoft says these are people spend much of their working day on their feet and work with their hands, for example engineers or nurses.
Bardeen said: "This is a lot of people and there's an opportunity to support these people and bring them value while they're doing their jobs."
Bardeem also announced that HoloLens has now passed basic impact tests for protective eyewear in the US and Europe, and that hard hat accessories for the headset will be available from the beginning of next year.
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