There are a lot of acronyms that fly around in this sort of space. So mixed reality is a term that kind of came into existence with Microsoft starting to push their approach to things with the HoloLens actually, which I’ll talk about a bit later. But it kind of covers off virtual reality. And also augmented reality – so mixed reality is a holistic term.
You also get people talking about extended reality, which is the same thing, basically. So, virtual reality is where you’re using a headset, a lot of people have experienced that. And it’s a closed environment. Whereas augmented reality, overlays information on your real world view, though, I suppose the most well-known kind of example of that was like Pokemon Go on mobile phones.
But in terms of commercial application, we have moved into working with Microsoft HoloLens, which is kind of a mix between the two, really, so it’s a really innovative holographic headset that Microsoft has produced. It allows you to overlay 3d holograms onto your real environment. So that’s the kind of thing we’re working solely with HoloLens at the moment, but I think in the future, we’ll be looking at all kinds of different technologies to take advantage of this mixed reality space that’s evolving quite quickly in design and construction.
So the Microsoft HoloLens came out, we got ours in February 2020, so it’s quite new technology. But along with the sort of standard headset, Trimble teamed up with Microsoft to develop a headset called the XR 10.
Now, that’s a sight helmet that has the HoloLens attached to it and it’s safety approved, site approved. And along with the XR 10. Trimble has also developed software called Trimble Connect for HoloLens. Now this is a piece of software, it’s an application for the headset. You don’t have to use the XR10 and you can also use it on the standard Microsoft HoloLens.
The way it works is that you have a cloud-based piece of software called Trimble Connect, which a lot of people use and are familiar with at the moment, and it allows design teams to upload 3d models and share 3d data in a cloud-based kind of filing system. And what the HoloLens can do, you can download with Trimble Connect the HoloLens onto your headset. And that can access those 3d models and pull them down from the cloud into the headset and allow you to work with those through the HoloLens. And so it’s quite a good workflow from that point of view.
We’re using that technology via a massive R&D programme we’re running called Construct XLR. So we set up probably about three months ago.
But the idea warmed-over lockdown, really. It’s where we were finding that there was quite a lot of interest in HoloLens, and having been in the industry locally as well for quite a while, I have quite a few contacts. And we started to come up with the idea that we might be able to roll out a programme where people can engage with the technology, and it gives some R&D and experience to the staff. But also, we always look to do outreach to students as well.
So we’ve got the software, got the headset, and now we’re doing two projects at the moment using those. Using the equipment on real-life projects. I’m putting Trimble Connect HoloLens and a headset through their paces on construction sites, and also doing student engagement work as well, which is really exciting.