Changing how we learn and experience technology
As a trusted partner to Microsoft’s Mixed Reality programme, Saab is creating applications for various hardware platforms, including the Microsoft HoloLens, an immersive mixed reality holographic headset that has far-reaching implications for user experience and training in both civilian and military arenas.
Augmented reality used to be the stuff of sci-fi movies, but it’s fast becoming an integral part of the training and user experience in a number of different fields. In 2016, Microsoft launched HoloLens, a bold take on augmented (mixed) reality technology. HoloLens uses multiple sensors, advanced optics and holographic processing to display content that can be viewed in the physical world around you or to even simulate a virtual reality.
Saab was one of the first developers invited into Microsoft’s mixed reality programme. Over the past few years, our team based in Adelaide, Australia, has been working on a range of groundbreaking training, education and other complex 3D holographic applications that promise to revolutionise the user’s experience.
“We’re looking at how we can use HoloLens technology to improve situational awareness and user engagement,” says Graham Smith, Chief Engineer, Saab Australia.
“It’s quite universal in its potential, and we’re working on its application in the health, mining and defence sectors. It’s really looking at how the technology can be applied effectively to improve user engagement.”
The first system developed was the Sandbox battlefield visualisation app for the Royal Australian Air Force, which shows 3D terrain with real-time interface into a combat management system. Multiple users can see and interact with ground units, ships and aircraft to visualise routes, sensor and weapon zones. Networking functions also allow shared battle planning for users in multiple locations. This brings an unprecedented level of intuitive situational awareness to battlefield commanders.
Building on this capability, the Saab team developed the InDepth™ app for a major mining company to display its gold mines in 3D. Saab’s InDepth™ is a 3D holographic visualisation and communication platform that allows multiple users to discuss, plan and gain a common understanding of resource site data. It allows users to view and interact with their data in whatever way they wish. InDepth™ creates a shared holographic workspace allowing local and remote users to work collaboratively in a shared environment.
Using InDepth™ for visualising complex information in true 3D allows users to focus on decision making and maximising the value of their data and time. Saab has found that customers using InDepth™ have been able to understand their complex data quicker and make more informed business decisions. Examples of the benefits our customers have gained include:
- Understanding the differences in the planned versus actual drill holes for blasting; and,
- Identifying errors in the interpretation of seismic data.
Saab also uses the HoloLens as a primary tool at exhibitions and demonstrations, with high-resolution interactive 3D models of Saab products and systems, from jet fighters to submarines. The team has also developed highly interactive operational scenarios where customers can remotely operate missiles and underwater vehicles to carry out, for example, a mine detection and clearing operation.
Graham Smith is intrigued by the possibilities of the cooperation with Microsoft.
“It’s exciting in terms of the potential applications for this technology, both in the defence sector and beyond. This technology is really about the art of the possible, and the recent upgrade has opened the door to further applications.”
“It’s great for our company to be involved in this programme. One of the reasons I came to Saab is our status as a successful company which delivers high quality with significant capabilities to our customers. When you look at the relationships we have with these other organisations, it’s a natural step to associate with strong partners such as Microsoft.”