Impressions of HoloMeeting 6 Months On

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First of all, it is great to be back as part of the Kazendi team. Since leaving earlier this year after my internship expired I have missed being a part of a) the daily life of the team but also b) working with HoloMeeting as we build the product experience.

I have, of course, followed Kazendi and the team from afar but I jumped at the chance when I had an opportunity to re-join this summer.

You can only really gauge what has changed in a product by trying it out so I am in rather a unique position having seen the earlier iterations of HoloMeeting and coming in now when the app is very far along its production roadmap.

I wanted to take a look at how far the app has come along in the past few months. As objectively as possible, of course.

Features then vs. now

Many things have changed over the past six months within HoloMeeting. While our team has been longed to working remotely using HoloMeeting for internal standups and meetings, the app itself has become much more accessible for non-technical users due to the easy download available at the Microsoft app store.

HoloMeeting is now compatible with more devices: Microsoft surface Pro tablets and Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets can be used to participate in meetings, almost as immersively as the HoloLens itself. Our team is working on  accessibility for more devices continuously in order to maximise the full Windows ecosystem.

Features, Features, Features

When the first version of HoloMeeting was developed at the end of last year, 4 basic features were implemented: a shared workspace which allows participants to share different 3D models, a line for the gaze tracking of participates views, a holographic avatar (shown as a holographic Hololens) and the spatial sound that allows users to communicate more intuitively (without annoying disruptions like voice overlapping.)

The first thing that comes into my mind looking at these photos is the different visualisation of the features. While these four features remain a core part of HoloMeeting, they have been improved continuously. The way they look and feel compared to the first HoloMeeting version released, completely different. While the "heart" of HoloMeeting, the shared space, for instance, used to appear as a grey holographic box, now only its corners are visible and it is a much larger space.

The gaze trackers, appearing as a green line in the picture above, are not fully visible anymore. To ease communication and prevent too many gaze tracker lines from disrupting participants, they were reduced to a little "Q-Tip" pointing directly at the respective object. Similarly the colour of the tracker changes in line with the avatar also.

Great changes happened to our holographic avatars: while a static hololens model used to float through the holographic space, we can now see realistic, static 3D scans of our colleagues that we made beforehand. Or plain models, if no 3D scan exists yet. Additionally, we can name our avatars for other users to recognise us.

Also the meeting menu has changed a lot also: not only its options have been extended with many new features and functions but the visuals and the UI were changed to make it more accessible and easier to use for participants.

Features and extensions have also been added to the application. These include a Freehand Draw tool that allows participants to draw directly into their 3D environment and a Live Video tool allowing participants to share their field of view with each other. It also enables users on site to get remote assistance from experts in remote locations. Furthermore. we implemented a whiteboard feature to sketch, draw and take notes during meetings.

The features mentioned above are, of course, not the only aspects that changed in this relatively short time for the young collaboration software.

Making the most of Mixed Reality

While, during the early stages, of the app's existence only very few people were able to take part in HoloMeeting at the same time, the number has now increased up to ten possible participants.

The number of file types compatible with HoloMeeting has also dramatically increased. Initially the app started with just a couple of file types for 3D models and now we are able to share over 60 different file types with our colleagues around the world such as simple 2D files (for presentations or documents) too.

An amazing change

Thinking about this blog, it would have been easier to mention the things that actually did NOT change about HoloMeeting. In fact, I can only think of two things that did not change over these past six months. Firstly, is on a practical level. Spatial audio is still being used to its full effect as it is one of the most valuable features differentiating HoloMeeting from traditional collaboration tools.

The second thing that didn't change is, of course, our point-of-purpose: to enhance the remote collaboration processes. Be it for manufacturing or other industries, collaboration massively gains in importance as globalisation continues.

I am glad I had the chance to participate in this journey where a great product, able to disrupt communication as we knew it before, has been created. Also, I enjoyed working with Hololens and using HoloMeeting for daily team standups. I met numerous interesting people in London and all the other places I got to travel for Kazendi.

Looking back to when I started at Kazendi, it is impressive how much a technology can change in this short time. As virtual meetings become more and more personal, we are getting closer to true holoportation.

It truly has been amazing to see how the app has grown and the clients that are actively using it (see the dedicated site for more info) and long may this rapid improvement continue.

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