In the Citrix Redmond office, we’ve had a chance to take an early look at a development edition or Microsoft HoloLens, the augmented reality visor (or ‘mixed reality’ as Microsoft prefers to call it) that allows you enhance the real world with digital content. Other than getting the obvious out of the way—that this is really cool tech to play around with—what are some of our initial thoughts on how the HoloLens and augmented reality can add value to businesses and, more to the point, to Citrix?

The HoloLens Experience

To answer that question, let’s first take a look at the HoloLens and describe the experimentation we have done with it. The HoloLens itself is worn as a visor, with the computing power required to augment the reality you view existing within the visor itself.

Nick Hirning, Citrix Intern, demonstrating the HoloLens
Nick Hirning, Citrix Intern, demonstrating the HoloLens

To create an augmented reality experience, we leveraged the Citrix Octoblu IoT (Internet of Things) platform to create an IoT workflow involving the HoloLens.

The Octoblu HoloLens flow
The Octoblu HoloLens flow

We’ve already been working and experimenting with the Octoblu platform to evaluate the Enterprise opportunity for the Internet of Things, and we wanted to see how easily we could blend augmented reality and IoT together to create a compelling proof of concept.

What we accomplished in a short amount of time is pretty cool, successfully demonstrating how you can use the HoloLens to control your local environment. Take a look at this nondescript cubicle wall here in Redmond. You see a bunch of printouts showing different colors.

Normal cubicle with printouts on the wall
Normal cubicle with printouts on the wall

Once you put the HoloLens on, appearing in the air in front of each printout is a virtual trigger or button. Each color has its own virtual trigger appearing in front of it.

Wearing the HoloLens, virtual triggers appear
Wearing the HoloLens, virtual triggers appear

Selecting this virtual trigger with your finger (essentially pushing this virtual button) causes a Phillips Hue light located below to change to the color you just selected.

Selecting the virtual trigger
Selecting the virtual trigger

The HoloLens is displaying the virtual triggers to you. The Octoblu IoT workflow is conveying the act of using your fingers to select the virtual trigger and turning it into a workflow action, changing the color of the Phillips Hue bulb in our office lamp.

Phillips Hue changing color
Phillips Hue changing color

We even created a virtual switch that appears over a monitor, just by looking at monitor an on/off switch appears, allowing you to turn off the monitor easily without actually having to touch the monitor.

Virtual trigger for controlling a monitor
Virtual trigger for controlling a monitor

The Business Opportunity for HoloLens

Now, admittedly, this is a pretty simple scenario, but what it demonstrates is compelling. We overlaid virtual interfaces into a real world office setting. Since this is augmented reality vs. purely immersive virtual reality, we can easily interact with all of the elements in the office. We can use the keyboard, look at the monitor, drink coffee and take notes on a notepad. We can enhance this normal office experience just by looking at an object, we can overlay onto our real world office virtual triggers that can do anything we want, and can appear in front of us whenever we need them.

Obvious examples of where this is applicable to real business settings is CAD (computer aided design) where you want to visualize your design in 3D or applied against physical elements in your environment. Also, anyone working in a sterile environment being able to change conditions in their environment by interfacing with virtual switches and buttons, like doctors and nurses working in an emergency room changing the lights, selecting and interfacing with patient information from the medical record without having to physically touch screens and keyboards.

Another scenario that starts to merge elements of augmented reality and big data is the ability to easily add contextual information to anything you are looking at. Consider a person walking around a factory floor, and they are able to access production and operational data just by looking at trigger points. And the aforementioned doctor is able to quickly glance at elements in the emergency room and receive real time vitals from the patient they are working with, and those vitals are combined with patient history to alert the doctor of things to pay close attention to. These are just some ideas, and it is entirely likely that the best uses for the HoloLens are ideas no one has thought of yet.

Augmented Reality and the Opportunity for Citrix

Our short experimentation with the HoloLens leads me to believe that there is tremendous potential for augmented and mixed reality tools to be transformative for the Enterprise, and the HoloLens represents a pretty solid step towards that transformation.

What, then, is the opportunity for Citrix? Citrix continues to focus on securing, mobilizing and optimizing app and data delivery. In an increasingly complex world where the digital business manages apps, data, services, devices and people spread across the world, the end goal remains the same. Data needs to flow seamlessly and apps need to be presented securely to users, when and where they need it.

This goal remains the same regardless if your interface is your laptop, your mobile phone, or a really cool interface that blends the digital and physical worlds together. It will be interesting to see how augmented, or mixed reality evolves with the business use case in mind, chances are that Citrix will be along for the ride.

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