This technology has been a long-time coming: Filmmakers have been experimenting with mixing worlds ever since The Great Train Robbery wowed audiences in 1903. More than a century later, Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard introduced real-time iChat effects in 2007; they enabled users to switch their background for something more exotic, fooling your friends into thinking you were on a high-intensity rollercoaster (sort of).
Zugara took this a step further with its Zugstar augmented reality video calls back in 2010. It was here that the real-world applications became apparent: doctors can explain procedures with diagrams, friends can try on overlay dresses and share opinions, and kids can play with building blocks using their hands and talking to friends.
“Microsoft Remote Assist is focused on commercial use cases at this time, primarily for firstline workers where we see immediate benefits such as remote instruction,” a spokesperson for Microsoft’s mixed reality division, tells Inverse. “Forward-looking technologies like Holoportation are more complex but will likely become more prevalent as mixed reality mainstreams.”
Remote Assist is still confined to that small Skype video chat, but the hands-free design and the mixing with the real world make it ideal for problem solving from a distance. Workers can use it on the factory floor to troubleshoot an issue, IT experts can assist with hardware issues, or someone can walk a family member through programming their DVR. These sound like small uses, but getting Remote Assist in businesses could fuel more ambitious projects.
“Microsoft HoloLens is on a multi-year journey and we are currently focused on developer and business scenarios,” Microsoft’s spokesperson says.