How Microsoft is Bringing the Metaverse to Factory Floors

11 Jun 2022 | Rachel Warren

HoloLens is being worn for a variety of efficient use cases.

The metaverse is starting to show up in some fascinating places and work environments. In this video clip from "The Virtual Opportunities Show" on Motley Fool Live, recorded on May 31, contributor Rachel Warren discusses how Microsoft's (MSFT -2.70%) industrial metaverse is helping companies manage supply chain, production, and repair issues in manufacturing factories. 

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Rachel Warren: Basically, the article was saying that Microsoft had announced that a company called Kawasaki is its newest customer of Microsoft's industrial metaverse. I was like, OK, what's that? The article explains basically the industrial metaverse for Microsoft is a fancy way of saying that factory floor workers will wear a HoloLens headset to help with things like production, managing supply chains, and repairs and that they will also be able to use the headsets to help build robots.

For anyone who is not familiar, as the article notes, HoloLens, which was first launched in 2016. It lets you experience AI augmented reality in it overlays digital imagery in a real-world environment, which obviously in a factory floor setting that can have a lot of really interesting use cases. For example, being able to build things and examine what's happening on the floor using digital twins.

The article was saying the idea is to create what Microsoft calls a digital twin of a workspace, which can speed up processes like repairs, starting new manufacturing lines. Whereas traditionally, let's say, you're on the factory floor, something's broken. Normally, you would call in a repair person to come into the factory to fix that broken part.

But what the article was saying, is that through these partnerships, you can instead have factory workers, the foreman, for example, use a HoloLens to chat with workers on site, walk them through that repair process using visual cues in augmented reality. It's a really fascinating concept to think about.

This company, Kawasaki, they're actually not the only one that's partnered with Microsoft to use its industrial metaverse, for example, Heinz (KHC -0.41%), the article noted, they've announced that they're going to be using Microsoft's industrial metaverse in their ketchup factories with Boeing (BA -0.27%) as manufacturing partners.

It's really interesting, there was a quote from Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Mixed Reality, which is just a really super cool title, I think. [laughs] Her name is Jessica Hawk and she was talking about the industrial metaverse as Microsoft's iteration of it, but also what that technology can mean for the future.

The quote she was saying, "that's why I think you're seeing a lot of energy in this space. These are real-world problems these companies are dealing with so having a technology solution that can help unblock a supply chain challenge, for example, is incredibly impactful." What's interesting, I think there's well something in this article notes and that we've talked about a lot before on the show is that we're really just starting to see what the metaverse could look like for consumers.

There's obviously many different metaverses and they all look a little bit different. Many of them are just in the very early stages of development. Often, I think, as a consumer, unless you're really super into this space, you might look at the metaverse and all the various metaverses that are building out and say like, "Well, great, well what does this really mean for me? How is this even remotely going to help [LAUGHTER] mankind?"

But when you look at something like this, where Microsoft is partnering with these companies across a variety of industries that are going to be using its industrial metaverse or HoloLens headset to do very practical use cases like helping to facilitate repairs on the factory floor, dealing with supply chain issues, using augmented reality. It's a really fascinating way to look at what the future of this space can be.

As the article notes, Microsoft has a head start. It's selling mixed reality technology to companies today while also giving developers the tools they need to make their own metaverse experiences. Obviously, Microsoft is really in a very strong position because it's facilitating both sides of that relationship within the metaverse.

I thought this was really interesting. I also think it's fascinating to see how you have big names like Heinz, for example, that are making use of these very practical tools and opportunities to put products out to consumers like ketchup.

I think it will be very interesting to see where this goes in the future, what other kinds of partnerships Microsoft can have. But I think even beyond Microsoft, you think about something like the metaverse as a potential solution to some of the supply chain problems that we see out there. The global supply chain continues to be under tremendous pressure for a variety of reasons.

I think to me, as a consumer looking at this space, I do get really excited when we talk about the more imaginative sides of the metaverse and what that could look like and hanging out via your avatar with your friends in the metaverse. But I also get, I think, even more excited when I think about the possible use cases here to solve manufacturing and supply chain challenges, for instance. Really interesting story. I think there's a lot of potential here.

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