SAN FRANCISCO, California — As HoloLens makes its way from Microsoft’s development labs into the hands of early developer and enterprise customers, the big question remains: What will they do with it?
Microsoft has done its best to guide would-be developers with a series of demonstrations dating back to the official launch in early 2015. Back then, NASA (still a major partner) showed how the self-contained holographic computer could use mixed reality to present Mars Curiosity Rover data and imagery in a whole new way. That demonstration inspired at least one company.
8Ninths (a new Mixed and Virtual Reality company named for icebergs that hide most of their mass below the surface of the water) is one of a handful of companies that, months ago. Microsoft seeded with HoloLens Development Editions.
Microsoft asked them to find a paying client and build a proof of concept. The company decided to build a financial system akin to the workstations futures traders use, but in a VR world. It then found financial giant Citi and its Tel Aviv-based Innovations Lab to help them build it.
8Ninths Cofounder and CEO Adam Sheppard told me they looked at the pain points of existing workstations and then drew inspiration from how, for example, they’d seen Microsoft and NASA solve 3D problems by embedding information in 2D and real environments.
The result is 8ninths’ Holographic Workstation, which was announced Wednesday at Microsoft’s Build 2016 developers conference. It’s a true blend of the real world (a physical day trader desk with a pair of real screens and a Surface Pro 4 in the middle) and a host of live, financial visualizations spread above the physical desk, including a cloud-like work area floating above the top shelf.
The system doesn’t replace existing Citi financial tools. Instead 8Ninths designed the workstation to integrate with it, while adding gaze, gesture and voice control to the experience.
When a trader looks through HoloLens, they’ll see the physical desk and then a bird’s eye view of the market up top, with colored balls floating in a cloud pattern. Bigger ones mean more trading activity. There are asset classes in the middle tier.
The system also employs what Sheppard called spatial organization, which puts near-term stuff closer and information for months away in the virtual back row. Sheppard told me he believes their workstation organization could be ported to all kinds of industries.
While the information appears to be spread all around the workspace, Sheppard told me they were careful to work within the HoloLens’ relatively narrow viewing frame, which is like a 42-inch HDTV floating in front of your face.
Because 8ninths’ Holographic Workstation is designed to work with existing financial systems and the company does have to, as they told me, reinvent something that already works, the timeline to an actual product could be shorter. On the other hand, they do not have an actual timeline.
“It’s not years away,” said Sheppard, “I would say it’s on the horizon.”
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