One of Asia’s largest air travel providers, Japan Airlines (JAL), has partnered with technology giant Microsoft to revolutionise employee training. The airline is using the Microsoft HoloLens to train engine mechanics, and for flight crew trainees who want to be promoted to co-pilot.

What is HoloLens?

Microsoft HoloLens is the latest in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology: a self-contained holographic computer that allows you to interact with virtual elements in the real or digital world through a special headset and visor.

The optical systems and advanced sensors allow you to interact with the holograms that are visible to you through the visor, without the need for handheld controllers. Designed to be as light and comfortable as possible, without affecting performance, HoloLens is an example of wearable tech that could help out in numerous industries.

Reaching for the skies

Thanks to JAL’s two HoloLens proof-of-concept programs, one to train mechanics and the other to teach aspiring co-pilots, the airline’s employees can almost get ‘hands-on experience’ in realistic – but safe and controlled – simulations of tasks they would actually perform in their new roles. Before the introduction of the VR tech, trainees were learning via the traditional methods of video and printout, which denied them vital situational experience.

“We believe that HoloLens can contribute to the safety of our business, which is the most important criteria for airlines,” says Koji Hayamizu, senior director of the planning group for JAL’s Products & Service Administration Department, writing on the Microsoft blog.

Wearable tech elsewhere

The successful application of HoloLens in a business environment will certainly make other companies sit up and take notice. However, JAL is not the first business the take advantage of the tech. Car manufacturer Volvo is one company utilising the new wearable device to allow its designers and engineers to visualise concepts in 3D, without the manufacturing costs.

Similarly to JAL, Case Western Reserve and the Cleveland Clinic are also using HoloLens to teach – but rather than employees, these educational and medical institutions are helping students. The next generation of doctors and nurses are able to hone their skills through lifelike anatomical visuals.

Construction firm Trimble, meanwhile, has developed a comprehensive use for HoloLens across its workforce. A Microsoft program allows employees to identify project issues, communicate with their colleagues around the world in real-time and improve architectural designs.

Beyond VR… virtual discovery

Even NASA is harnessing the tech. The agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is developing technology to allow for virtual exploration of the surface of Mars; astronauts wearing HoloLens visors incorporated into their helmets can take a VR walk on the surface of the Red Planet. Next, the aptly named Onsight programme, spearheaded by NASA scientists and Microsoft engineers, is developing a Mars Rover to give anyone controlling it a point-of-view perspective.

Wearable, AR and VR tech is on the cusp of something great. From visualisation to training, and from communication to discovery, hardware such as Microsoft HoloLens could be the future of the wearable device.

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