My Take on Microsoft Ignite 2017 – Part 1: Mixed Reality

September had finally arrived and it was time for Microsoft Ignite!

This year I got to add a new city to my ‘Places I’ve been to’-list as this time the convention was going to be held in Orlando, Florida – The Sunshine State…..And boy, did the sun shine! With the temperature regularly spiking above 30 degrees and a scenery that included palm trees and theme parks it was the ideal climate to soak up all the new stuff Microsoft is planning for the coming year(s), to meet (new) tech community members, to talk to Microsoft’s product team members, field experts and developers.

For those who don’t know what Microsoft Ignite is (shame on you…) it’s the main conference, Microsoft holds every year to present their new and improved solutions, to talk about how they are planning to develop them further in the years to come and to facilitate the entire Microsoft (tech) community – from IT Pros to End-users, to interact with product teams, field engineers, industry leaders and to meet with each other.

In the past, there were separate conventions for each expertise, but with Satya Nadella at the helm this was changed. For the better, in my opinion, as this fits perfectly into the more community-driven and integrated way of working we as techies know and love!

In this four part series I’ll be talking about my views on the main technology areas Microsoft has announced to want to focus on in the coming years, which are:

Part 1:  Mixed Reality

Part 2:  Artificial Intelligence

Part 3:  Quantum Computing (coming soon)

Part 4:  Microsoft 365 and the Modern Workplace (coming soon)

Stats Ignite

Having attended Ignite last year in Atlanta, this year I was slightly more prepared for this beast of a conference:

  • A massive amount of people with Microsoft backpacks
  • A lot of people in purple shirts to guide you in the right direction
  • A massive venue (!!)
  • A huge eatery, with a designated area for people like me that need to really think about with what they stuff their face with (being lactose intolerant sucks, people…lost 2kg)
  • That same eatery serving as an overflow/lounge area to catch multiple sessions on a huge screen and relax at the same time
  • A lot of shuttle-busses
  • A lot of breakouts and roundtable sessions, keynotes, hands-on-labs, etc.
  • An Expo area packed with vendors, field engineers, product teams, theaters to catch sessions and areas to simply relax and connect with each other

EateryShuttleVision_Keynote_Satya_Nadella

Mixed Reality

If you’ve been following the news related to extended realities, then you know that all the major technology companies are betting big on merging our (already crowded) real world with virtual ones….which is awesome! As business development and technology lead in this space at Capgemini NL, this was one of the reasons I wanted to visit Ignite.

Microsoft has a strong asset in hand with their original Mixed Reality device – the Microsoft Hololens. And, yeah, besides having benefits (for example being untethered, capturing and audio capabilities built-in, high resolution/framerate achievable) it definitely has some drawbacks (for example field of view, battery life, bulkiness and weight, sensitivity to light). If we just keep in mind that we are at a unique stage where we are still trying to make sense of the technology as people, but at the same time companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft are already providing us with the hardware, the SDKs, amongst other stuff, the drawbacks get put into an entirely different light. So instead of having to wait for the final version (I’m looking at you Magic Leap), we get the beta stuff to create the final product together with them.

During the keynote we were presented with a live demo which showcased conceptual scenarios currently being tested and applied at Ford Motors, for which the existing Hololens and one of the newer Mixed Reality devices were used.  The new Mixed Reality devices are essentially tethered VR-kits with built-in sensors, negating the need for external sensors like is the case with the HTC Vive, for example. I was expecting at least one of these devices to be available for demoing on the Expo floor, but unfortunately none of them were. Although, there were two partner hosted areas where you could experience the Hololens first-hand.

The funny thing was that in the Immersion Zone at the conference – which was an area where you could study, do hands-on labs and chill, there was an Office 365 Admin VR experience….

“Cool, one of the new Mixed Reality Headsets” was what I said to myself! Nope, the experience was being run on an Oculus Rift….

 

Check out the Mixed Reality Headsets below and on this site

.

Back to the vision keynote! The speaker, Raanah Amjadi – Product Marketing Manager for Microsoft Teams gave us this quote:

 “Microsoft’s vision for the Modern Workplace. A glimpse to help Ford’s design and engineering team to strengthen their team work and use Microsoft 365 and Mixed Reality to further innovate, collaborate and make business critical decisions more quickly and securely…”

Although the demo ran smoothly, in terms of actually showing us something ‘new’ to get excited for in relation to the Mixed reality tech, there was not much there. The ‘newish’ Spectator view was used during the demo, which allows others to see in 2D what a Hololens user is seeing.

For me the most exciting part was to finally see the Modern Workspace come alive in the Mixed Reality world: the integration of Teams, Skype and Stream, seeing these solutions being applied in a work context in Mixed Reality, support for common 3D-file formats and our first glimpse into what the newly improved AI-infused Microsoft productivity solutions can provide, made it worthwhile.

You can check out the full video of the demo here.

…and just for laughs, you should definitely check out the video of last years Hololens demo here, which was awesome in terms of the technology used, but at the same time cringe worthy to say the least. You’ll know what I’m taking about once you get to about the 2-minute mark 😉

Join me for Part 2: Artificial Intelligence of this four part series about Ignite.

 

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