Microsoft releases new apps that make augmented reality way more helpful to businesses

Microsoft HoloLensMicrosoft is one of the many companies working on augmented reality tech with its HoloLens headset.Getty

  • Microsoft announced new Dynamics 365 artificial intelligence and mixed reality products on Thursday, and they will be released in April.
  • Microsoft's new mixed reality applications help front line workers collaborate remotely and help buyers visualize products they want to buy with different colors or enhancements.
  • Microsoft's new artificial intelligence products help with automation, reducing fraud, and providing customer insights.

Microsoft is betting that its big push into mixed reality can make a difference in businesses like manufacturing, automotive, sales, energy, and more.

Mixed reality is similar to virtual reality, in that it allows you to view 3D computer-generated images. The difference is that users can use a device, like Microsoft's own HoloLens headset, or even a smartphone camera, to see and interact with these digital objects in the real world.

On Thursday, Microsoft announced new AI and mixed reality applications to be released in April as part of Dynamics 365, its subscription-based line of business applications.

Alysa Taylor, corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Applications and Global Industry, says that Microsoft created these applications because customer in those specific industries asked for them.

"It really is about giving customers the set of applications they need to transform," Taylor told Business Insider. "It's really about enabling organizations take all that high value data that help them move their business forward."

The new apps

One of Microsoft's new mixed reality applications is called Remote Assist, which allows technicians to use their smartphone or PC to remotely dial in to a HoloLens headset and see what the wearer sees. The viewer can overlay arrows or even scribbles to call the remote worker's attention to something.

The other new tool is Product Visualize, which allows sellers, especially those in manufacturing, healthcare, and automotive, to showcase and customize their products. For example, a car salesperson can show a customer a car and display different features and colors in real-time, helping them visualize their purchase.

Dynamics 365 Remote AssistMicrosoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, one of Microsoft's new mixed reality applicationsMicrosoft

Read more: Here's why Walmart is betting on Microsoft's AI to challenge Amazon in online and physical retail

"These are really designed to help sales, remote workers, and people doing retail or space planning to bring that digital environment in with how their organization operates," Taylor said.

Microsoft itself has already started using its mixed reality applications to design its flagship stores' floor plans and analyze customers' foot traffic.

"We wanted to bring in mixed reality to have new experiences in a hands-free environment but also bring the marriage of that physical data with the application data," Taylor said. "That's fundamentally why we got into the space."

Companies are already using Microsoft's mixed reality technology in their business. Toyota has started using the tech to figure out where to safely lay out equipment on the manufacturing floor, and to create augmented reality training programs. Chevron has also been using the app to survey oil rigs and pinpoint problems to communicate back to its headquarters. This can reduce costs and safety risks.

Dynamics 365 Product VisualizeMicrosoft Dynamics 365 Product Visualize, one of Microsoft's new mixed reality applicationsMicrosoft

Microsoft's new AI applications are part of a line of Dynamics 365 AI applications that were first announced in the fall, which will help customers to automate customer service, detect fraud, and other aspects of their business. Microsoft has been investing in its AI technology and making acquisitions to supplement it, such as its planned acquisition of XOXCO.

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.

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