2020 has been a challenge for organizations across the globe on multiple levels, deeply affecting how we live and work. Many countries that implemented a lockdown during the exponential growth phase of the Corona virus pandemic and are now relaxing the measures. Businesses are reopening and employees are getting back to their workplaces, though many will continue to work from home. For those returning to the office, it is not the old normal as we knew it. Since the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still a threat, the world is readjusting how we live and work, and business leaders will need to reset, restart and reshape their businesses in the new socioeconomic climate.
My colleagues wrote a great eBook about The Future of Business Continuity you can download for free covering the impact of COVID-19 on business recovery and planning in the future. In this post I’d like to continue that conversation with a focus on Spatial Computing and how you can leverage it to generate business value with specific and actionable use cases for the COVID-19 era.
Spatial Computing is an umbrella term for Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality (AR/VR/MR) and more spatially aware devices like depth sensors. Spatial Computing is an emerging technology that will dramatically change how we interact with computers and the world, using intelligent edge devices. Fueled by AI, those devices can spatially sense the world around us.
Spatial Computing is top on our list of next wave disruptive technologies we expected to see drastic growth in 2020. However, in the COVID-19 era we expect to see an even further acceleration for this emerging tech than anyone could have expected and have identified key use cases for this technology that will provide significant ROI with long-term business value.
Spatial Computing-Enhanced Collaboration One area where spatial computing can have a large and fast impact is in enhancing and restarting collaboration when coupled with AR Cloud technology, which Gartner lists on their Emerging Tech Hype Cycle as a “transformational technology”. The AR Cloud, sometimes called Mirrorworld, Live Maps or Azure Spatial Anchors, is essentially a Digital Twin of our world. A digital content layer that is persisted and mapped to real objects and locations in the physical world. This allows virtual content to be shared cross-platform between devices and over time. Combined with 5G mobile networks, this technology will be key for the Spatial Computing adoption as it provides the references digital twin and 3D digital map of the physical world that Spatial Computing devices can understand.
The following use cases are just a small selection of ways you could use this tech to maintain safe working conditions:
- 3D capturing and on-site design reviews in AR/MR with shared and persisted content overlays which enable work in smaller groups of frontline workers with on-demand content that can be reviewed remotely by other team members at any time on any Spatial Computing device (including mobile).
- Virtual IoT Digital Twin dashboards persisted at the sensor location can provide data insights without any physical contact to sensors / displays:
- Encoding of nutrition and other product information directly read by a marker-less AR app without the need to touch and physically handle the product in a traditional retail scenario.
- HoloLens 2 hand tracking can also help to avoid touching objects with contact-less object measurements:
- Overlaying of virtual social distancing markers in AR/MR to help maintain the recommended 2m/6ft distance between employees/customers and highlighting other sensitive regions.
- Usage of location data to visualize a heat map in AR/MR showing how busy a specific location has been recently, giving the opportunity to choose less-trafficked areas and optimize flows.
- Digital Twins can also be useful for immersive training and repair instructions with customized training that uses contextual-based information without the need for an in-person/group training with on-site instructors.
- Another remote productivity option is using Azure Mixed Reality services for large-scale Digital Twin visualizations with complex 3D models containing hundreds of millions of polygons. Rendering them on small and lightweight Spatial Computing devices leveraging cloud-based rendering like Azure Remote Rendering which we covered in detail in a previous blog post. For example this technology allows to render this 19 million polygon model on the HoloLens 2:
- It also possible to visualize the SARS-CoV-2 virus, almost to the atomic level by leveraging Azure Remote Rendering:
Spatial Computing-Enhanced Communication
- Immersive telepresence with HoloBeam for life-like, holographic meetings using 3D volumetric video streaming and collaboration tools over a normal internet connection.
- Telemedicine using Mixed Reality remote assistance to consult with off-site patients providing a more immersive patient interaction than just through a 2D video call.
- Remote Assistance to reduce the need for on-site experts. For example, when a new facility site is setup, the domain experts do not have to be there in-person but can guide the local staff through the deployment process from afar using Dynamics 365 Remote Assist with real-time visuals.
- The expert could also be a physician using Remote Assist as shown by the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust: “HoloLens with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist uses Microsoft Teams to send a secure live video-feed to a computer screen in a nearby room, allowing healthcare teams to see everything the doctor treating Covid-19 patients can see, while remaining at a safe distance.”
- Immersive Storytelling in VR and AR for marketing using advanced visuals to bridge the gap between brick and mortar and digital experiences and provide meaningful customer experiences from anywhere.
Spatial Computing-Enhanced Workplace and Culture
Effective enforcement of physical distancing guidelines in public spaces and office settings will be critical for many organizations to return to operation while keeping COVID-19 metrics like new infections, at a tolerable, low level. Using Spatial Computing, depth-sensing 3D cameras like Azure Kinect and other sensors combined with AI will play a key role here.
- Augmented Intelligence for object recognition and other machine-intelligence scenarios leveraging AI on the edge for fast, low-latency results in the context of the actual physical objects with AI models directly executed and visualized on the HoloLens.
- Body tracking to analyze behaviors in real-time to ensure social distancing rules are being applied correctly and are constantly maintained to avoid gathering of groups. Using automatic analysis combined with immersive visualizations on the HoloLens or other devices.
- Movement heat mapping to see where the most foot traffic occurs, and where there is a high likelihood that physical distancing is not possible. This could help with better planning of floor layouts, traffic patterns, and cleaning/disinfecting efforts, etc.
- Gated entry counting with thermal imaging and temperature checkpoints using Spatial Computing cameras can automatically monitor the number of employees entering and exiting a facility to adhere to new capacity guidelines and also measure their temperatures upon entrance to ensure a healthy workplace.
- Gated safety gear, mask, and PPE detection to ensure individuals are wearing the required PPE correctly in public spaces, offices, production facilities and other areas where it is mandatory.
- Any of these scenarios could be combined with a Digital Twin and visualized within an AR/MR device like the HoloLens so the work environment and employee behaviors can be monitored without onsite managers. This not only limits the number of people needed in-person within a facility but also frees up manager time to focus on other tasks with automated alerts and checkpoints to identify and even predict problems.
These are just a few, high-level Spatial Computing scenarios that could quickly provide a business advantage as organizations begin planning their new business as usual in the post-peak-pandemic era. As early members of the Microsoft Mixed Reality Program and other industry Spatial Computing programs, Valorem Reply’s experts leverage deep industry experience and technology knowledge to help our clients imagine and develop innovative solutions to everyday business challenges, anticipated or unprecedented.
If you would like to discuss use cases for emerging and industry leading tech in your organization, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask about tailored solutions for your specific business goals and outcomes.