Microsoft announced the launch of its HoloLens 2 headset in the UAE, as it aims to help organisations benefit from integrating mixed reality into their operations while promoting sustainability.
The latest smart glasses were developed to save significant costs, reduce energy consumption and operational emissions, the world's biggest software company said.
The smart glasses will help customers across industries to “unlock new ways of working”, while accelerating innovation, generating new revenue streams and creating new value for their businesses, Ihsan Anabtawi, chief operating officer and chief marketing officer of Microsoft UAE, told The National on Wednesday.
“We are confident that enterprises in the UAE and beyond will leverage it to accelerate their digital transformation journeys and contribute to sustainable economic growth by innovating with confidence and collaborating without boundaries.”
Mixed reality is the means by which elements of both the physical and virtual worlds are integrated. While not new, its popularity continues to grow as several industries increasingly depend on the technology and more use cases are brought up to harness its potential.
Other major companies becoming increasingly involved in further developing the market include Facebook parent Meta Platforms, which unveiled four prototype headsets last month, and iPhone-maker Apple, whose board of directors was reportedly presented with its own version in May.
Currently, the most significant driver of the market is the emergence of the metaverse, the digital space in which people are represented by avatars — three-dimensional representations of themselves — and can interact in virtual worlds.
It is part of Web3, the next evolutionary step of the internet, with blockchain, decentralisation, openness and greater user utility among its core components.
“As we shift to the next computing paradigm, Microsoft is excited to upskill every business and every developer to build secure, collaborative metaverse experiences using best-in-class hardware, intelligent cloud services and cross-platform tools,” said Ksenia Ternavskykh, mixed reality product marketing lead at Microsoft Middle East and Africa.
“By starting with mixed reality, organisations can derive significant and quantifiable impact today and build necessary capabilities to be ready for the future.”
The value of the global mixed reality market is expected to hit about $2.5 billion by 2028, a more than seven-fold leap from $331.4 million in 2021, at a compound annual growth rate of about 29 per cent, according to data from India-based research company Valuates Reports.
Dubai also announced two major initiatives on the metaverse this week — the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, which aims to add $4bn into the economy and create more than 40,000 jobs, and the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, an industry event that is scheduled to take place in September.
The HoloLens 2, which is initially available for enterprise customers, is backed by Microsoft's Dynamics 365 business applications portfolio, which offers more than 200 applications provided by the company's partner ecosystem and the Azure cloud platform.
Microsoft set up its first cloud data centres in the UAE in 2019, in partnership with Abu Dhabi telecoms operator etisalat by e&.
“HoloLens 2 will act as a business catalyst and empower partners to create new value, increase revenue and improve customer relationships by offering mixed reality capabilities,” Microsoft said.
The integration of the HoloLens 2 into business operations has significant potential impact, offering a 177 per cent return on investment over three years, according to a Microsoft-commissioned study conducted by Massachusetts-based research company Forrester.
Benefits vary by industry. Using the HoloLens, US aerospace company Lockheed Martin was able to increase efficiency by 90 per cent, while the Minnesota state's Department of Transportation was able to save about $4m in costs, according to data collated by Microsoft.
In addition, the device can help to improve employee health and safety, business continuity, as well as customer experience and outcomes, the report showed.
For the workforce, using the HoloLens enhanced training and task efficiency, which in turn saved up to $2.1m in labour costs, Microsoft said.
The original HoloLens was released in 2016 and was the first head-mounted display that ran the Windows Mixed Reality platform.
Its tracking technology is based on Kinect, the motion sensor accessory for Microsoft's Xbox game console that was introduced in 2010.
There are a number of options for the HoloLens 2. Aside from the standard model, there are versions for application development to heavy-duty industrial use, with prices ranging from $3,500 to $5,200, according to its website.