Microsoft's HoloLens has found a home in healthcare, potentially breathing new life into what has been spotty deployment of immersive digital solutions in enterprises.
Medical equipment maker Stryker is using the headset to help show customers how its surgical tables, light fixtures and displays will look in their operating rooms (ORs). HoloLens serves as a planning and design tool for sales pitches, saving Stryker the time, money and effort it typically spends to demonstrate its wares.
"We have a diverse base of individuals interested in how that operating room is going to look and operate," says Andy Pierce, Stryker's president of global endoscopy. "HoloLens enables them to reach that stakeholder base to demonstrate options for customers and do it cost-effectively.”
Enterprise immersion tech adoption remains low
Virtual reality products such as Oculus Rift immerse consumers in a digital world and augmented reality applications such as Pokemon Go overlay digital information over the physical world. HoloLens is perhaps the most prominent product for mixed reality, in which you interact with digital and real-world objects, typically holograms, while maintaining your presence in the physical world.
Corporate adoption of immersion technologies has remained low as executives search for products that will make a significant impact for their businesses. But Gartner expects that to change and predicts that 20 percent of large enterprises will implement such technologies as part of their digital transformation strategies by 2020.
You can count Stryker, which began exploring HoloLens with Microsoft in 2015, among the early adopters.
The company’s lighting, equipment and tools must be customized and situated in ORs for each surgical discipline. To accomplish this, Stryker provides two-dimensional demos on computers or iPads and builds mock ORs of what its equipment looks like in that setting. The latter approach is particularly expensive and inefficient, requiring prospective customers to travel.
In 2015, a meeting with Microsoft executives opened Stryker executives’ eyes to the potential for using HoloLens to virtually design ORs, according to Shaun Braun, group CIO of for Stryker's MedSurge and neurotechnology businesses. Stryker sales teams and clients could use the headset to optimize the layout and configuration of OR equipment to allow physicians and their staff to do their jobs efficiently, while keeping the patient safe and comfortable.
Stryker began a HoloLens pilot in 2016, integrating it with its By Design planning application. It works like this: Stryker sales representatives and prospective customers don HoloLens headsets, which include the OR blueprint in By Design. Participants can then map out the room together in real-time, using hand gestures to move, turn and manipulate lighting fixtures and equipment booms around the virtual room.
You can reposition a multi-jointed light on a boom to achieve the desired angle in the hologram.
"You really feel like you're standing in the OR with multiple folks interacting with it and looking at each other," Braun says. "You're standing in a mixed reality of your future OR."
Why HoloLens resonates
Gartner analyst Marty Resnick says Stryker's HoloLens scenario may resonate well with customers because it makes the sale more of an "emotional experience" as opposed to just another step in a sales engagement. "You're bringing a new experience and presence into the sales cycle that you wouldn't typically do," Resnick tells CIO.com. He says that providing such an experience could help Stryker close more sales.
Like any emerging technology, HoloLens takes some getting used to. At $3,000 a pop, it makes for a pricey sales tool. And while it has a limited view plane compared to virtual reality products, the tradeoff is that the technology doesn't induce nausea as some VR solutions have.
But for Stryker’s tailored purposes, the technology works fine. Braun says that the decision to adopt HoloLens was approved after he and his team demonstrated it to 22 of Stryker’s C-suite, board of directors and other leaders last year.
Eventually, Stryker hopes to integrate price quotes into By Design, and it could extend the use of HoloLens into medical education and sales enablement functions. "There's a lot of different buckets where this technology will play in the future," Braun says.
Stryker’s use case is the latest in a line of corporate scenarios for HoloLens. As CIO.com reported in October, Volvo, Lowes, Japan Airlines and ThyssenKrupp are testing the headset for tasks such as sales, customer service, maintenance and flight crew training.
More recently, software maker Adobe announced that it is testing HoloLens in retail settings. One Adobe app allows store managers to view augmented data above the floor of a store showing what percentage of people have traveled down those paths.