Ironman or Pokémon: Both are helping make the virtual real!


This post is a collaboration between David S. Lipien– Director in Microsoft’s Premier Services, Jeremy Rule– Practice Manager in Microsoft’s Premier Services, and Dan Simmons– Technical Manger. They are all part of the Enterprise Services Business where they enable clients to leverage IT for business success in the cloud and on the ground.


Ironman and Pokémon both are telling the story of our future reality – virtual or otherwise.

It is gratifying when films and games allow for a better understanding of something we do as developers in the world of IT. Often the work we do, the bits and the bytes, are not necessarily exciting dialogue at a dinner party (maybe the bytes). Recently, movies like Ironman and apps like Pokémon Go are helping make augmented reality well understood, literally overnight.

To start let’s cover the four types of reality:

  1. True: the life we live every day.
  2. Virtual (VR): the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment can be interacted within a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside and/or gloves fitted with sensors. The HTC Vive and Oculus are two commercial examples. Think about Total Recall when Arnold Schwarzenegger went on a virtual vacation.
  3. Augmented (AR): technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. Two words – Pokémon Go!
  4. Mixed: a merging of real and virtual worlds where the physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. One word – HoloLens. Ironman movies are a great way to communicate this powerful technology. MSHoloLens_Skype_03495_3x2_RGB

We are at another new technological change with VR/AR; think about the mainframe, client-service, internet and smartphones. The VR/AR Association stated that analysts have yet to agree on the market size, however estimates range from $16B to $30B for VR by 2020 and up to $120B when you include AR. Gartner predicts “…sales of HMDs (head-mounted-displays) for both AR and VR applications to increase from less than 500,000 units in 2015 to nearly 40 million by 2020. By 2030, immersive interfaces will have replaced all other user experience paradigms in 80% of use cases that require human-to-machine interactions.”

Hologram experience at Lowe's.Business processes and traditional customer experiences can change and already have examples, Lowe’s is changing the home renovation experience by using Hololens to visualize and interact with a designed space.

Another example is GM’s bet on virtual stores for their Cadillac brand as noted in the WSJ. GM as part of their extensive retail strategy “Project Pinnacle” is looking to retail locations where there will not be inventory on hand, but a VR headset and an amazing customer experience.

Think about safety. We have seen the heads-up-display from BMW, where they claim drivers are able to process driving information 50% faster. The SKULLY AR- 1 is the first augmented reality helmet to feature a built-in 180° blind spot Camera and Heads-Up Display for unparalleled situational awareness and safety. Anyone who has been on a bike or on the road with bikers can appreciate the safety and opportunity that brings.

The above explains how the technology can be used, now let’s see how it will impact the way technology will be supported. The Implications are numerous – all aspects of people, process and technology are impacted.

People

Help wanted! Developers no doubt will play a huge role as shown by the first-of-a-kind class from University of Washington a capstone course where students used 25 devices for 10 weeks built VR/AR applications. This trend will only continue to amplify. Software, hardware, design and business skills are critical and are the confluence of all those skills. Think about VR/AR as a recruiting tool, impacting people and the way we recruit talent. According to a WSJ article GE is using a VR headset to attract millennials to experience a ride aboard a GE locomotive or GE’s subsea oil-and-gas recovery machine. Think about as a training tool; Japan Airline and Microsoft recently partnered with the following outcome “Using Microsoft HoloLens, Japan Airlines (JAL) has developed two proof-of-concept programs to provide supplemental training for engine mechanics, and for flight crew trainees who want to be promoted to co-pilot status.” Developers, business analysts and project managers like today all have a role to play across all functions and industries.

Process

The SDLC (software development lifecycle) will need to be enhanced and adjust for the VR/AR paradigm. For example, for a Requirements Management process, wireframes and user stories will need to be enhanced to communicate intent and business outcomes. Testing cross-devices will need to be woven into test cases and processes, not unlike cross browser and mobile device.

D.A.R.E, an acronym for Data Collection, Analysis, Regression and Excel, is a regression-based framework. The challenge we have is there is no historical data, so project management approaches and experience in estimating techniques is critical. A recent PMI article reported on the challenges of a team building a VR theme park; “…they anticipate that building three different 3-minute virtual experiences will cost roughly three times the budget of a feature film, but no one knows for sure.

Technology

Existing technology will be enhanced as we know it. Satya Nadella puts on a Microsoft HoloLens and looks at a virtual interactive calendar seemingly projected on a wall of his house. Microsoft Office takes on a whole new life of ideas from a development perspective and a support perspective.

From a speed to market perspective, Vive, Oculus and Hololens run on Windows. This allows for developers to work with a familiar operating system. Other familiar programming/scripting languages such as HTML 5/WinJS, Unity 3d, UWP (Universal Windows Platform), XAML/C# and XAML/C++ will enable an accelerated transition.

Explore the devices at a local Microsoft Store; until you do, it is challenging to really appreciate the possibilities.

This is an exciting time in our industry and we only scratched the surface. Microsoft Premier Support has experts who can help your organization make the technical and people/process transitions described above and partner in your VR/AR journey. Contact us at PSADM@microsoft.com or contact your Microsoft Application Development Manager for more information.

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