Mixed reality enables immersive collaboration for remote teams

Fracture Reality’s JoinXR platform offers a streamlined augmented reality solution that can help generate meaningful insights and discussions about complex 3D data

Rob Minson
By Rob Minson on 02 September 2021
Mixed reality enables immersive collaboration for remote teams

The dramatic shift to increased remote working triggered by the pandemic poses a real problem for those industries that carry out complex projects which rely heavily on the use of 3D data, such as the construction, engineering and manufacturing sectors.

Sharing this data via 2D screens does not allow it to be examined in the same detail, which can hamper communication and consensus building  and ultimately becomes the main source of delays in complex projects.

Virtual and augmented reality (XR) solutions offer a potential solution to this problem, as they allow teams to work directly with 3D data and collaborate more effectively. However, cutting-edge XR solutions can be difficult to use for all but the largest organisations. Without an in-house development team and the significant investment that represents, it remains a purely R&D concern rather than having a meaningful impact on the wider organisation.

To democratise access to XR technology, an easier, more manageable solution is necessary. Fracture Reality’s JoinXR is a 3D-first collaboration platform that leverages Microsoft HoloLens and Azure Services to put mission-critical 3D data at the centre of meetings. It replaces video chat and screen-sharing with lifelike avatars and interactive holograms and can work directly with industrial CAD and BIM data, without any need for costly optimisation or conversion.

JoinXR offers turnkey access to Azure services for enterprise 3D data, including Azure Remote Rendering. Operating on its own, HoloLens encounters a bottleneck when displaying data at about 250,000 polygons. Beyond this, your experience will degrade dramatically. Enterprise 3D data typically starts in the millions of polygons, so another approach is required.

Remote Rendering uses the computing power of Azure to render highly complex models of up to hundreds of millions of polygons in the cloud and stream them in real time to your HoloLens device, enabling users to interact with their 3D content in the detail they require. With JoinXR, organisations can start using this service in streamlined, multi-user meetings with no prior technical setup, with a fast turnaround.

This easy-to-use package streamlines the use of XR technology, allowing organisations to save time and money in its implementation. And once in place, it can deliver a range of benefits to meeting communication. By bringing everyone into a single 3D meeting space, the limitations of screen sharing no longer apply. The experience of being present in a blended physical/virtual space lets you maintain stronger bonds between remote teams around the world without the need for expensive and environmentally damaging travel.

One of the areas in which JoinXR can be particularly useful is in design or product review. If an organisation is carrying out a large, costly construction project, it is crucial that the relevant people can have oversight and approve its progress. Viewing the project plans through Join XR enables meaningful discussions about the progress of a project, based on the highly detailed data now presented to them. Furthermore, that data will always be taken from the most up to date project files, due to JoinXR’s ability to use the original CAD files.

In addition, an XR presentation can provide a high-impact and persuasive sales tool. JoinXR provides the ability to create a structured presentation, helping to capture and hold the attention in a way that the freeform ‘sandbox’ approach of many other 3D platforms cannot. The capability to examine a product in close detail can also be very important in the sale of large, complex equipment such as engineering or plant machinery, for example, as the model can be explored dynamically from micro to macro detail and in a range of different contexts.” 

We have ambitious plans to extend the platform’s capabilities into the future. The rollout of 5G networks will go hand in hand with mobile edge computing solutions like JoinXR that enable real-time visualisation previously only available on extreme high-end PC workstations. 

We’re also excited to be working with Microsoft in the development of Microsoft Mesh. JoinXR provides a glimpse into the future of what Mesh will become, with cross platform remote presence, complex data visualisation and photorealistic avatars, and we are looking forward to extending those capabilities as part of the Mesh ecosystem.

Rob Minson is chief technology officer at Fracture Reality 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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