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Intro

Welcome everyone to the HSO Dynamics matters podcast.

Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters and much more besides.

I’m your host Michael Lonnon, and today I beamed Microsoft’s Global Sales Director for Dynamics 365 Mixed Reality, Anna Waight in for a futuristicy chat around all things virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. Well, I say futuristicy, but as you’ll soon discover, businesses are benefitting from this advanced technology today.

So, grab a brew, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Michael Lonnon – 00:00

Tea or coffee?

Anna Waight – 00:03

Oh, definitely coffee.

Michael Lonnon – 00:04

How do you have it?

Anna Waight – 00:07

Extremely strong, pre 12 and then I have a strict no caffeine rule after my two extremely strong cups.

Michael Lonnon – 00:15

What’s the rule based on?

Anna Waight – 00:19

My ability to sleep at night time. So yeah, I try to do strong coffee in the morning and then post that it is decaf all the way through

Michael Lonnon – 00:28

My wife cuts it off, she has like a 4pm cut off on any cups of tea, because she’s of similar thinking that she won’t be able to sleep later on. So I guess you’re the same.

Anna Waight – 00:38

Yeah, yeah, my brain is active enough as it is. I don’t need coffee.

Michael Lonnon – 01:09

PC or Mac.

Anna Waight – 01:23

Oh PC

Michael Lonnon – 01:24

Clearly – good answer, given that you’re working for Microsoft.

Anna Waight – 01:29

Surprise. I actually, to be fair own both but I just can’t get used to my Mac because I’m so used to the PC shortcuts that it slows me down too much

Michael Lonnon – 01:44

So you have a very interesting sort of focus for your job don’t you around mixed reality. So for those listeners of the podcast that aren’t familiar with mixed reality, could you explain a little bit about what it is?

Anna Waight – 01:59

I do get this question quite a lot so if anyone is listening, don’t feel like you’re alone in trying to understand this terminology. So the way we try and break it down is if we think about the kind of augmented reality virtual reality space first of all so AR, augmented reality is very much focused on the blending of physical and digital content, right and the simplest way of explaining this is if you’ve ever taken a photo and applied a filter, so you’re taking your real world and you’re augmenting it with digital content so it’s got a digital overlay. In the enterprise space this is very much like the remote assist experience, you know, you’re on a call with somebody, you can see their physical space, and then you draw annotation, so you now are placing digital content that’s spatially anchored in their physical world, right? So that’s augmenting somebody’s reality AR space. On the other end of the spectrum, you have virtual reality, and this is the scenario whereby your complete surrounding is virtual, all of the content that you’re experiencing is virtual reality it’s all digital and typically we see this more in like gaming scenarios, you know, those shooter games, or in training scenarios where you’re simulating somebody’s environment and it’s completely digital and that’s kind of the other end of the spectrum, right? So, at Microsoft, we coined the term mixed reality because when you look at our solution stack, and that’s right, across services, devices, applications, you know, software, hardware, you name it, we have capability that span that whole spectrum and so that’s why we refer to it as mixed reality, because we have capabilities that go across the augmented to the virtual reality space.

Michael Lonnon – 04:03

So from an enterprise or from a business organisation perspective, how can you make use of mixed reality augmented and virtual together?

Anna Waight – 04:16

Great question and it really spans multiple scenarios but from a dynamic standpoint, it’s very much anchored around the first scenario. We look at it’s kind of workforce transformation and focus on that training scenario. So how do I better improve somebody’s understanding of a task that they need to learn or complete in training and onboarding? The second scenario where we really see organisations adopting this is in their field service. So I’ve got somebody out at a site that is now trying to complete a job and they need support to understand either how to do this better or they need additional context so perhaps they’re trying to fix a piece of equipment and they want to see some IOT data or the work instructions, or get support from somebody else.

Michael Lonnon – 05:10

Does this mean from a field services point that you could have lower skilled individuals doing higher skilled work? Someone up in Scotland who doesn’t quite have all of the skills and you’ve got the expert down in Lands End in Cornwall, you could effectively have that higher skilled person use augmented reality to help guide the lower skilled person through whatever it is that they’re trying to do, something like that. Is that a scenario?

Anna Waight – 05:38

Yeah, absolutely. What we really see organisations doing is driving efficiency through things like leveraging the skills of somebody that’s not there. So not only does it mean that, you know, you can get people up to speed faster and when people retain 90% of what they do, versus 10% of what they read when you train somebody with, you know, heads up hands free training so you can actually do the task while you’re learning, they’re going to retain a lot more and what we find is onboarding is significantly reduced. One of the organization’s we work with, they took their training time, from one month down to one week, we’ve got organisations that took it down from a month to a day. So not only do we find that the onboarding process is significantly reduced, but the retention time is also increased and then the ability for you to shift how you execute on tasks, the efficiencies of how you do that by reducing the need for travel by an expert being on site, or just yeah leveraging skills that are in different locations. So it’s not just in terms of the job that they’re doing right there and then but it’s actually how you get them up to speed to do that job in the first instance

Michael Lonnon – 06:56

What sort of tools are you using to do that? When we’re talking about mixed reality, what is it that Microsoft is offering? I’ve heard HoloLens mentioned fairly regularly, but what is it, how does it kind of work physically?

Anna Waight – 07:12

We get quite a lot of questions about the devices and the cost of the devices and how do we pick the right device. So today, we have a number of flavours of HoloLens, we have the HoloLens 1, the HoloLens 2 and then the HoloLens Developer Edition and the Industrial edition. The industrial edition essentially provides additional certifications, which enable the device to be used in certain scenarios, clean room compliant, is one of the major ones and so both of our remote system guide applications run on the HoloLens and on those HoloLens devices, we also from a remote assist standpoint and have a mobile application that runs on iOS and Android. Organisations can buy a remote assist licence and essentially use that across multiple endpoints be that on the HoloLens on a mobile, iOS or Android device. Here’s a little sneak preview into the roadmap, in the process of developing a guide mobile solution, which will essentially take shape in a power app template. So what this means is you can build a guide that is leveraged for the HoloLens, and then essentially leveraging our Power Apps mobile template, pull that data through into a power app. So in some scenarios, we find organisations feel that the mobile solution is sufficient for the scenario that’s being leveraged. So earlier on, I touched on a training and repair scenario, but we also have assembly lines inspections and customer service scenarios where people are adopting this technology. And in some scenarios, people say actually heads up and hands free is not really required. It may be they are out and about in facilities and don’t want to carry a device like a HoloLens, or they’re looking to scale across 20,000 field technicians, and therefore a mobile solution is most relevant for their particular use case.

Michael Lonnon – 09:26

This all sounds almost slightly futuristic. But is it something that many organisations are aware of, or benefiting from or using as part of the general day to day operations to improve operations or are you finding it’s kind of a growth thing and slowly, slowly, people are starting to realise that and where do you think it is at the moment?

Anna Waight – 09:49

I could kind of answer this in many ways. First of all, let me touch on some of the benefits that we’ve observed. What’s the economic impact of investing in remote assisting guide from a guide standpoint high level we looked at reducing errors and rework time by 50%. There’s also a huge financial impact to that for each organisation. Then we’ve got reducing the overall task time so we’ve seen on average task time being reduced by 20 to 40%, saving on average about 166 hours of work per user per year. Then from a manufacturing standpoint, we’ve also seen organisations avoiding loss throughput, to 48 hours per line. So if I explain this statistic in a bit more detail, organisations will typically need to use assembly lines in the manufacturing standpoints scenario for training whereas if you can use augmented reality, like our guided work instruction, it avoids the need to have to take that piece of equipment offline or that production line out for training. On the remote assist side, we’ve seen some similar benefits being observed. Notably, we have seen organisations reducing their travel costs, we’ve seen resolution times resolved five times faster and then overall cost savings of $1,300 per user per month. Now for some of our customers they will already be familiar with our business value assessments but what we typically do with customers, when we’re going through the process of looking at adopting these types of technology, we do a business value assessment, then that ultimately spits out bespoke saving costs for each of the scenarios that you’re looking to adopt remote assist and guides and, and in fact, any of our technology stack. So I’ve worked with customers where at the end, we’ve had a report that takes out millions of dollars in cost from their bottom line based on things like first time fixed rate improvements, reduction in travel costs and improvements in efficiency. So if anyone is thinking about adopting these technologies, they can look at our standard ROI calculations and then if they want to take that a step further, we can invest in doing a bespoke ROI calculation.

Michael Lonnon – 12:14

Sounds like a no brainer.

Anna Waight – 12:15

Yeah, absolutely. You asked about benefits, but you also asked about the adoption so I just want to touch on some of those statistics. So we’ve seen in our recent reports that 90% of organisations are either adopting, piloting or evaluating mixed reality technology. So we really see now that that there are very few organisations that are not thinking about mixed reality. I’ve been in this role coming up three years now and I’ve definitely seen a huge transition especially given COVID. So those adoption certificates at 90% was actually for 2018 that’s when we took that poll, since COVID has hit we’ve seen a huge pivot in organisations adopting mixed reality, because when it goes to delivering services, trainings, you know, to end customers, not just internally, people are looking to these types of technologies to leverage those. One of the biggest emerging use cases we’ve seen is the adoption of MR as a way of delivering a differentiating customer service. So if we take Mercedes Benz and that’s a public case study today, they were the first adopters of this model where they deployed HoloLens is in the US to their 400 dealerships, so that a customer like you or I would come into a dealership problem with their car and need support, the dealerships would then need to call back to Mercedes Benz to get support to help triage an issue. Instead of them doing this over phone calls and emails etc. Mercedes Benz actually gave the dealerships a HoloLens so now the dealership just pops on the HoloLens and right there and then can triage the problem. So from a customer service standpoint, the customer is seeing, you know, wow, my Mercedes Benz are using best in class, you know, innovative technology to help get my problem resolved, and then the dealership is also then able to turn around that fix much faster and so we’re seeing this adoption really ramp up.

Summary

As you heard from Anna, businesses today are already taking advantage of mixed reality-based tools and applications. Using it to improve customer engagement, reduce cost, and upskilling workforces quickly. It’s clearly not a fad, especially when you consider in a recent Forrester report, 90% of businesses are considering ways they can use it to improve how they operate and as with most of Microsoft’s technology these days, if you can imagine it, you can do it.

One things for sure, there’s a lot of exciting developments coming in the years ahead when it comes to mixed reality.

Thanks for listening, take care of yourselves.

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