This Is What A Mixed Reality Hard Hat Looks Like

A Microsoft-endorsed hard hat solution lets construction workers use holograms on site.

Industrial collaboration tools are one of the fastest-developing areas for the Microsoft HoloLens, with many companies such as Object Theory looking for ways to diversify and broaden the market for Mixed Reality. On the other hand, selling this technology as an everyday working tool in places like construction sites, offshore facilities and mining projects means making it robust enough to be used as such. This means it has to comply with very specific and stringent safety and environmental standards.

Which is how Microsoft finds itself in the somewhat unlikely position of endorsing a hard hat. They have been working with Trimble to come up with a design complete with MSA V-Gard hard hat, suspension system, and quick-release accessory clips. All of which allow workers to wear the HoloLens comfortably without voiding the warranty of the $3,000 device.

It also meets basic impact protection requirements of ANSI Z87.1, CSA Z94.3 and EN 166 (the most common protective glass certification standards) and IP50 rated testing, meaning the device will be able to perform protected from dust. And while that might not sound like the sexiest list of features, it seems to have got this construction crew excited enough in the demo video below.

These workers already routinely use technology such as tablets to access plans and data on site, but going from 2D to 3D at scale brings that to a whole new level. “Superimposing the digital model on the physical environment provides a clear understanding of the relations between the 3D design model and the actual work on a jobsite,” explained Olivier Pellegrin, BIM manager, GA Smart Building.

The application they are using is called Trimble Connect. It turns data into 3D holograms, which are then mapped out to scale onto the real-world environment. This gives workers an instant sense of where and how various elements will fit and exposes mistakes early on in the process.

The HoloLens app does that by combining multiple models – structural, mechanical, electrical – and aligning each one precisely on a 1:1 scale onto the job site structures. Workers can review and make changes to the models in context with the physical environment they’ll be applied to. Not only can you plan work more efficiently, but you can also train workers and compare plans against tasks completed. Other features enable users to view and capture data with onsite measuring tools, make annotations, and assign tasks.

Trimble – a California-based company that specializes in advanced location-based technology – was one of the first HoloLens partners that Microsoft onboarded back in 2015. Later that year, Trimble launched its Mixed Reality program and released the first commercially available enterprise-level product for the device – called SketchUp Viewer – in partnership with multinational engineering firm AECOM.

Trimble Connect is available now on the Microsoft Windows App Store with a free trial option. Users will be able to not only use the functionality in training scenarios, but also visualize and share holographic data to collaborate in projects and manage tasks such as quality control and progress monitoring.

“We are expanding the opportunities for implementation of Mixed Reality in a broad range of industries,” says Aviad Almagor, director of Trimble’s Mixed-Reality Program. “With the rise in acceptance for mixed-reality solutions in business, the need for 3D visualization outside the office is driving this next wave of innovation.”

The Hard Hat Solution, which is expected to be released later in the first quarter of 2018, will build upon what has been Microsoft’s HoloLens strategy from the very start, focusing on enabling Industry 4.0 efficiencies and capturing the lion’s share of the enterprise market.

Which is not to say that they are ignoring the average user, however, as the new wave of Windows Mixed Reality headsets proves. These headsets incorporate many of the features the company developed for the HoloLens, such as inside-out tracking capabilities, which make them a lot more comfortable to wear and brings the tech a step closer to looking like a viable consumer proposition. It does mean, however, that Microsoft can afford to play the long game as far as mass-market adoption goes, and that’s a pretty nice place for it to be, especially as we start to anticipate what the next generation of the HoloLens will look like and how it will compare with other newcomers in that space like Magic Leap.

About the Scout

Alice Bonasio

Alice Bonasio runs the Tech Trends blog and contributes to Ars Technica, Quartz, Newsweek, The Next Web, and others. She is also writing VRgins, a book about sex and relationships in the virtual age. She lives in the UK.

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