Long story short. I got an opportunity to be on grand stage of Unite India 2018 to talk about Future of Industrial Workforce using Microsoft HoloLens. This blog post is all about how I prepared for the talk and numerous challenges involved to make it to the grand stage.
I work for an engineering company. Engineering is one of the sweet spot for Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology. As part of product development and research, we do envision incredible ideas in AR/VR space. We do have one such use case for an assisted replacement using Microsoft HoloLens. On a very high-level, the assisted replacement solution assist field engineer to replace a defective component in a complex hardware unit by overlaying holograms. The solution assists him at every step in the field, without using any manuals at all. Yes, it's a complete hands-free solution.
I have been to Unite India 2017 for presenting one of the HoloLens app we developed at that time, in category Made With Unity. This time when Unite India 2018 was around the corner, I thought to take this futuristic and productivity enhancer solution to showcase on the big stage. I prepared the proposal for speaker nomination on topic - "Future of Industrial Workforce using Microsoft HoloLens" and got selected.
I work for an engineering company where every solution we develop and every data we manage are IP protected and is tied up with export compliance and trade policies. Taking the solution as-is for demonstration is a No-No. I initially thought to check with customer for whom we developed the solution. The chance of getting a nod to take the actual hardware unit was very minimal since December is the time where customers will be busy wrapping up their works and busy planning for the vacation. Keeping that in mind, what's next?
We do have a store room (we call it as dumping yard) where we keep all the hardware's that will be returned back to the vendor either we call it an expiry or not useful after a period of time. There we found network switch stack with series of boards stacked to each other. We pulled one board out of it that can be made into a genuine one for our demo.
The board had 4 heat sinks arranged next to each other. We replaced 2 heat sinks with a relay board.
Voila! Now, the board has enough components to develop series of assisted steps.
Building 3D model
Now, we got the board. What's next? We don't have 3D model with us to overlay holograms as part of assisted replacement experience using HoloLens. Creating 3D model from scratch is a No-No since we are in short time frame. We thought to try photogrammetry to generate the 3d model. We borrowed DSLR camera from one of our colleague and captured photos from all the angles and fed into photogrammetry software which generated not-so-bad 3d model of the board which was used to recreate the demo.
Our modeler thoughtfully spend time to polish the critical part to give life to model.
To make it look like genuine piece of hardware, we printed an acrylic sheet (and sticker) to cover the board along with tower screws. Here it how the final product looks like. Cool, isn't it?
One more day left...
The model barely got ready the day before the event. I started quickly creating an AR experience with necessary piece of code blocks - from detecting the board to overlaying holograms of the board to fine tuning the experience. It was a time-bound marathon coding.
On the big day...
The solution was just getting ready and I am barely few hours away from my talk. And, exactly 6 hours before the talk, I somehow finished recreating entire use case on the same board which we got from store room.
Phew! It was a win-win. Below is a photo captured by my colleague where I am working on final stages of my demo and few hours away from my talk.
After making sure the demo is good enough, I immediately captured Mixed Reality Capture (MRC) and updated my PowerPoint slide. And, rushed to the venue for showcasing the solution.
It was indeed a great experience to be on the grand stage and share the learning with tight packed audience. Instead of showing too many technical contents, I narrated the entire use case as story telling - starting with the problems field engineers are facing, how best we can help solve those with technology in hand, best practices when designing mixed reality solutions and it was well received.
Thanks for making it upto here. It was indeed a great overwhelming experience to be in the grand stage.
Hope you all enjoyed.