Microsoft is selling the metaverse now ⁠— and it’s helping make everything from robots to ketchup

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  • Microsoft announced Tuesday that Kawasaki will use the “industrial metaverse” in its factories to help build robots.
  • The technology lets workers use Microsoft’s HoloLens headset on the factory floor to view digital imagery on top of the real world.
  • Metaverse products are being used in the enterprise as there is no successful consumer product yet.
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You might not be ready to jump into the metaverse just for fun, but it might come in handy quicker than you think.

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Microsoft announced on Tuesday that Kawasaki has a new customer for the tech giant’s so-called “industrial metaverse” — a fancy way of saying that factory floor workers are a part of a team to help manage production, repair and supply chains. Will wear the HoloLens headset. It will use the headset to help build the robot.

HoloLens, first launched in 2016, gives the wearer an augmented reality experience, which places digital imagery onto the real world. For Microsoft’s industrial metaverse, this means tying together many of Microsoft’s technologies, such as cloud computing, to help factory workers and managers get stuff done faster and more efficiently.

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In Microsoft’s industrial metaverse, this means what the company calls the “digital twin” of a workspace. This speeds up processes such as repairs and starting new manufacturing lines.

For example, instead of calling a repair person to come to the factory to fix a broken part, they can use the HoloLens to chat with an on-site employee and listen to visual cues from augmented reality. With you can walk you through the repair process. It lets managers use the digital twin to spin up new production when needed — something Microsoft pitches as a way to tackle supply chain problems.

It’s not just using Kawasaki technology. Heinz announced earlier this spring that it would begin using Microsoft’s industrial metaverse in its ketchup factories. Boeing has been using it for manufacturing as well.

While this may sound like a gimmick, it’s something Microsoft customers have been asking for as Buzz builds around the Metaverse concept. Jessica Hawke, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of mixed reality, told CNBC in an interview last week that the industrial metaverse is a flavor of what enables technology today before we reach a future where the metaverse is fully immersive.

“So I think you’re seeing a lot of energy in that space,” Hawk said. “These are real-world problems that these companies are dealing with… so having a technological solution that can help unblock a supply chain challenge, for example, is incredibly impressive.”

Microsoft’s growing business says a lot about where things stand with the metaverse. While we may be hearing promises of a sci-fi future where everyone is working, playing and socializing in virtual reality, the companies developing it today are starting with the enterprise, not the average consumer.

For example, Meta’s upcoming mixed reality headset will be more expensive than its $299 virtual reality headset and will be marketed to people who want to feel “present” while working remotely. In fact, one of Meta’s first Metaverse products was an app that lets you organize meetings in virtual reality.

But the difference is that Microsoft has a head start, and it’s actually selling its mixed reality technology to actual companies today, while also giving developers the tools they need to create their own metaverse experiences.

“We really see variation in the way that we’re going about our strategy here that recognizes where people are going to experience the metaverse across different devices and platforms,” ​​Hawk said.

That means Metaverse products that also work on 2D screens, like Microsoft last year added new features to its Team Chat app where people can appear as digital avatars. These types of features could be translated to headsets and other platforms in the future.

“We’re really excited that this is a moment that is opening up so much innovation,” Hawk said. We understand a few things today.
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And we recognize many and many things that we have not yet fully realized. So it’s a very exciting time for us.”

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