After four years using Microsoft’s HoloLens internally, aerospace giant Airbus is partnering with the tech company to sell specialized holographic programs that run on the mixed-reality headsets to other companies in aerospace and defense.
Microsoft and Airbus are unveiling the plan Monday at the Paris Air Show.
It’s part of a broader effort by Microsoft to get its latest device, HoloLens 2, into the hands of more big business customers, through a variety of programs that augment the physical world via headset. Microsoft is looking to differentiate itself from many others in virtual and augmented reality, such as Oculus and Magic Leap, by focusing primarily on business and industrial applications, rather than games and consumer apps.
Airbus is to looking to use mixed reality technology to expand into more parts of the global aerospace industry, while giving itself a technological edge. The company uses HoloLens to help train production workers and give them access to information and virtual instructions, and it says it has identified more than 300 additional uses for mixed reality in its operations.
“Our challenge in the coming years is to manufacture more aircraft faster, and for that we need to enable our workers to be much better equipped and to be much more effective in what they do. We need to raise the bar,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Airbus executive vice president of engineering, in a news release announcing the expanded partnership.
Airbus rival Boeing, Microsoft’s longtime neighbor in the Seattle region, has also been experimenting with HoloLens to help with everything from airplane manufacturing to fighting wildfires with drones. Boeing even featured the Microsoft device in a video last month congratulating its European competitor on its 50th anniversary.
The first tech solution offered under the expanded partnership between Microsoft and Airbus will be a program that lets airline maintenance workers and cabin crews train in a 3D holographic environment, and access virtual instructions on the job via HoloLens, without needing to pick up a physical instruction manual.
This technology was first developed by Airbus and Japan Airlines, and will now be made available by Airbus and Microsoft to other companies, as well.
Airbus is also expected to offer a holographic map technology “that allows participants from the defense and aerospace fields to virtually connect, quickly share space data and interact with complex virtual environments to plan and prepare ahead of missions,” according to the announcement.
The companies say Airbus is also working on other mixed reality applications for maintenance, training and remote collaboration.
The collaboration on holographic technology is an example of an ongoing partnership between Microsoft and Airbus, which separately last year began shifting its entire workforce away from Microsoft’s Office 365 to Google’s G Suite, according to a report at the time in the Register.