Microsoft unveiled its newest Microsoft Technology Center Wednesday night, a facility designed to show off the company’s newest innovations to customers and partners.
The 18,000-square-foot facility on the 22nd floor of the Lincoln Square office tower in downtown Bellevue, Wash., is Microsoft’s 42nd Technology Center, but unique for its proximity to the company’s Redmond headquarters.
The point of these facilities is to help Microsoft partners and customers, as well as prospective customers, visualize possibilities using Microsoft technology. Think a high-end corporate meeting space combined with a souped up showroom. The edges of the space are flanked with several conference rooms. In the center is a Microsoft device bar with numerous types of computers, Surfaces and even a 3D printer.
MTCs are used for presentations to potential clients, demos of new technology and labs and workshops available to businesses and the public. Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group, said Wednesday that the other 41 MTCs engage 17,000 different customers, partners and other organizations annually, and each interaction is customized.
“We are able to get a great bi-directional discussion about the technology and how we are leveraging that for your benefit,” Sorgen said.
The centerpiece of the MTC is called the Envisioning Center. It contains four workstations, surrounded by theater seating. Each MTC has one, and they are customized by city. The stations in the Bellevue MTC, include a skybox at a Mariners’ game, a traditional office, a home office and a kiosk that a bank or retail employee might use. Mark Perry, director of the Bellevue MTC, said these rooms are used to run through intricate, customized situations with Microsoft technology.
“Instead of just rolling through product capabilities and feature sets, we try to have scenarios that play out between different actors,” he said.
To make sure all of this technology works efficiently, the MTC includes a mini data center on site.
A pair of multipurpose rooms on this day were used for demonstrations of Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed-reality technology. Microsoft partner Taqtile ran demos of a 3D program that lets people interact with PGA Tour courses, which GeekWire got a chance to try out earlier this year; and an interactive anatomy lesson developed with Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic. The HoloAnatomy demo lets users examine various systems in the body from all angles. It contains quizzes about the digestive system and a map of the brain with descriptions of every key part.
Taqtile co-founder Dirck Schou said HoloLens could impact a variety of fields, including education, healthcare and many other fields. HoloLens at this point trails its virtual reality competitors and has yet to become widely available. But Schou said the mixed reality world that HoloLens creates — layering virtual imagery on top of reality — has greater potential than VR. Virtual reality, he said, requires way more work to create an immersive experience, including a full build-out of the surrounding environment.
Schou said HoloLens could be great for industrial maintenance work as well.
“I can imagine a worker having to repair a large piece of equipment, like field maintenance. Having a holographic blueprint of that device, showing up and being able to lock it to that device to see if something is out of order,” he said.