HP is Using HoloLens to Help Customers Remotely Repair Industrial Printers

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HP this week announced its ‘xRServices’ program which equips customers of its industrial printers with a HoloLens 2 headset, allowing the company to provide immersive remote support for repairs, training, and more.

While many AR companies are focused on building AR products, HP is making an interesting move in using the technology as an add-on to improve an existing line of its business. The company’s newly announced xRServices program promises to deliver remote AR support for its industrial printer customers.

The program employs Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 headset, which HP’s customers can use to access AR training and live guided instructions to fix issues that arrive with complex, commercial scale printers.

HP is pitching the solution as a way to allow even untrained individuals to fix issues with the help of a specialist on the other end who can guide them step-by-step through troubleshooting and repairs with AR instruction. Further the company says the service can be used to provide AR training for various workflows and issues that may arise with the company’s industrial printers.

HP hasn’t clearly detailed exactly what software it’s running on HoloLens to facilitate xRServices, but it seems likely that it is leveraging Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Remote Assist platform which includes many of the AR functions that HP showcased in its xRServices concept video—like augmented annotation, document visualization, and video chatting through the headset.

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Image courtesy HP

HP says the xRServices program is in beta and being trailed by a handful of companies today, ostensibly with plans to scale up the program in the near future if all goes well.

The move is a glimpse of what is likely to be the future of many types of technical support interactions. While this kind of technology is starting to be deployed in enterprise settings, as AR becomes more prevalent in the devices around us we can expect to find this kind of remote support in our homes one day too.

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  • Xron

    Great use, hope we will hear of more uses like this.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    Neat video, but in a way it demonstrates a “typical” failure of technology that sets out to revolutionize some area by removing humans from the loop and automatizing something, only to end up as a new form of telephone support.

    I’ve worked for a long time on e-learning, where the main idea was that the process would adapt to the individual student, content would be compiled depending on process and multiple ways to explain a subject would be available for the different learning approaches people use. Basically, create a private tutor for everyone.

    What we ended up with are learning management systems that are mostly distribution platforms for PDFs and ways to chat with teachers. There are some modules for questionaries, but mostly the euphemistic term “blended learning” is just the same type of instruction we have used for decades or centuries, only via video calls and chat. And when a global pandemic created the best use case for e-learning ever, we finally got … massive zoom calls.

    The concept of VR was driven by the idea of creating virtual world, where you could do things that simply aren’t possible in the real world, whether this is the idea of an abstract cyberspace or a more down-to-earth second life version like the Ready Player One Oasis. Can you ski down the pyramids or climb the Everest with Batman? Not really. But you can talk to others in VRChat or hang out in Rec Room. And of all the great things in Meta’s metaverse vision the thing they are actually implementing is virtual meetings.

    Now having an AR device to guide me through a complex process would be very nice. Ikea could drop even their minimalistic manuals and simply tell me where to put that screw. In fact this has been a big use case for exiting industrial wearables with a single microdisplay that have been around for decades. But like e-learning and fully realized VR world this requires a lot of content creation, and a lot more sophisticated object recognition and interaction than is available today.

    So instead of having the schematics of the machine available on the device and guiding the user through the repair process, HP’s vision seems to be more that of a call center. Sure, that could work, esp. if the call center employee can see what you see, but it is a far cry from the promise that AR actually augments the real world by showing you the extra information you are looking for almost instantly.

    These aren’t the only examples. Somehow whenever there are concepts of computer generated worlds, where you primarily interact with something machine generated, we end up with a new version of telepresence, where you still require human assistance. The only virtual worlds that somewhat work according to the original vision are computer games, and they only works because NPCs are running around in a very limited simulation, and every interaction was part of the game design. And even there the most popular ones are massive multiplayers. We may have the technology to transport you into a virtual world, but we are far of from populating these worlds with avatars or devices intelligent enough to make them really useful.

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    • Anonmon

      “Can you ski down the pyramids or climb the Everest with Batman? Not
      really. But you can talk to others in VRChat or hang out in Rec Room.”
      Can’t speak for Rec Room, as by nature that places is limited hard core, but in theory, you absolutely could ski down pyramids or climb Everest with Batman in VRChat. I literally have skied down a mountain and climbed around multiple climbing challenges with people in all sorts of characters, corporate IP ones or otherwise (Why limit yourself to pre-existing characters when you can be practically ANYTHING?). The problem is, do you really want to though, at least all the time?

      The reason why VRChat ends up being 60% being in a group circle and/or in front of a mirror and talking to each other is because that truly is really the most compelling feature of a social VR game. Really “Being there”, network latency notwithstanding, talking and interacting with different people from all around the world with similar interests about just about anything and everything. Now the other 40% of the time, the exploring cool worlds and such with or without people, whether that be long time friends or new people you picked up a 1/2 hour ago, that’s absolutely there. Feels like most people have barely scratched the surface of what could be done as far as worlds to make, and everything has a certain layer of jank on it, but the “Can do anything in a virtual world” part definitely translated to how things panned out.
      Though, on average, at any given moment, given humans are social creatures after all, people are just gonna want to sit and talk to each other about things. You don’t want to ONLY be playing escape rooms or exploring photoscans of IRL places ALL the time. On average, people just want to relax and strike up a good conversation and have a good time with others.

      Which then kinda feeds into the wider problem/point your post was bringing up. What we imagine something to be without all the nuances of actually having implemented that in play, and actually doing it and seeing how a wider population ends up interacting with that thing, are two entirely different things.
      Remote learning could be this really cool thing that automatically tailors itself to individual students for maximum learning, but does that jive with how any education systems around the world operate, especially given the development required to get that working when just slapping what we’ve already been doing except digitally is so much faster/easier/cheaper and easier to conceptually understand?
      Do people really want to have VR worlds be exclusively active experiences and challenges that are always high octane excitement when you are presenting the opportunity to socially intermingle in ways literally impossible otherwise? You have body language for goodness sake, even in a limited form, an aspect of human communication that’s been completely lost on practically every form of practical long distance communication since, basically ever.

      With AR then, what would people actually get from that? We can imagine all sorts of exciting and/or genuinely useful use cases for it, but what out of that is genuinely compelling for a wider population, even if we’re only talking about technology enthusiasts? Being a extension of what is effectively a call support hotline for incredibly complicated machinery makes a ton of genuine sense, but does using it as a super fancy (and expensive) instruction booklet for furniture really serve you better than a paper booklet included with the product?
      I’ve stood by the opinion from the outset of the very concept of AR, LONG before any of this was a technological practicality, that beyond very specific use cases, AR is a complete meme. Why? You can’t have really deep and content-dense games in AR, because by the very nature a dev cannot know what environment it will be used in. Can’t rely on having a flat cleared table for instance, so it basically ultimately boils down to things like FaceRaiders on 3DS except it tracks better, or fun virtual pet things maybe. You’re not gonna have a Skyrim exclusively via AR. There’s plenty of gimmicky stuff to be had if we expand our imaginations sure, but that’s the thing, without being able to ACTUALLY take people to places, it will ultimately end up being 3rd or 4th fiddle behind VR and normal flat screen for games.
      So what about for social interaction? Similar problem, you can’t know what environment people are going to be in, you can’t rely on having everyone having empty rooms of approx. the same size, dimensions, and shapes to be in, and it doesn’t really add anything that being in proper VR doesn’t already do far better anyway.
      But for interacting with reality with added digital information, there we start to see promise. Again, for specific use cases like the one in this article, makes perfect sense. For average consumers though, sure? Make it a extension of the “smart”phones that the users of assumes everyone else has one of, but at best it’ll be like “smart”watches that it’ll extend functionality in useful ways (Always in vision clock, literal HUD in conjunction with a map service to give directions to places), at worst it’ll end up something like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJg02ivYzSs . Not the future I want to live in myself.

    • Arno van Wingerde

      Well, you’re right in a way, but rather than “following the instructions on the screen” you could make a VR manual where you put on the glasses and see the parts. What HP has done here goes a step further: some expert at the other side of the planet could look over your shoulders and help out. Like you said, making a VR Manual for even a normal laserprinter is a big job, even more so for these industrial printers. And yes: it is not full AR as you define it… just a step along the way that already brings major advantages. The truly virtual world is still far away, but underneath the hype, there is a lot of potential that can be unlocked with a gfraction of the effort.

  • david vincent

    Well that sucks for the customer who has other things to do than doing HP’s job.