Monthly Archives: October 2018

Microsoft HoloLens: A developer’s kick-start guide

The world industries are currently in a state of transition with the emergence of digital tech and immersive Mixed Reality (XR) technology. Many systems both new and old, that have been difficult to upgrade to a screen based medium due to lack of usability may now have a clear path to digitisation through the use of XR technology due to many applications making more sense in a spatial medium than a 2D screen.
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Our time developing MS HoloLens experiences for clients has led us to discover a great many tips, tricks that are not that widely known in this exciting new world of XR development. Developing for the MS HoloLens has a great many opportunities but also limitations which may make an inexperienced developer feel that their design and application potential must also be limited.

However, our extensive usage of the platform has made it clear that the limitations are easy to overcome if the proper steps and procedures are known. This encompasses everything from creating experiences optimized for high and stable framerates, all the way to designing user interfaces to take into account and take advantage of the spatial nature of the MS HoloLens.

Over the coming months we will be releasing blog posts aimed at guiding new and experienced developers through the world of MS HoloLens development, with an aim to potentially host scripted live training sessions or developer training events for developers based in the UK or further afield.

Beginner’s Guide Setting up your first MS HoloLens Project

Get the software
In order to get started with MS HoloLens development the following software is required:

Set up Our unity environment for MS HoloLens Development
In order to get started with MS HoloLens development, we need to start a new unity project.

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Once opened, Unity will initially be in “Standalone” platform mode. In order to develop for the MS HoloLens, we need to switch to “Universal Windows Platform”.

To do this go to: File > Build Settings. We are now presented with the platform build dialog. Select the “Universal Windows Platform” and press “Switch platform”. All the assets in the project will now be reimported as the project switches to the UWP platform.

 

 

 

 

 

hololens4Once switched over, change Our settings to
mirror these:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ensures that we have the correct settings to perform successful optimized builds. The compression method is optional and can also be set to “Default”, however LZ4HC can perform better depending on how assets are compressed.

Acquire and Import the Mixed Reality Toolkit
The Mixed Reality Toolkit (https://github.com/Microsoft/MixedRealityToolkit-Unity) is a set of example scripts and assets to kickstart MS HoloLens development. Without this toolkit, much of the basic functionality such as gaze interaction, cursors, air tap input, spatial mapping and processing will need to be created from scratch. It is therefore recommended by Microsoft and by PAULEY that we always include the latest copy in our project.

There is currently a newer branch of the toolkit in development that is in alpha, however we will want to use the most latest complete version: HoloToolkit 2017.4.2.0 (https://github.com/Microsoft/MixedRealityToolkit-Unity/releases/tag/2017.4.2.0)

Once we have downloaded the toolkit, we need to import the folders into unity. If we have a previous version of the toolkit in the project, it is imperative that we first delete all the folders or we will be very likely to encounter errors upon import.

Once imported we will have the following folders in Our project hierarchy:

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You’re now ready to start development!

We recommend you look at some of the example scenes within the toolkit to get an idea of what working with MS HoloLens will look like.

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We suggest looking into the “SpatialMapping” folder inside of the examples as it contains a number of scenes that will help we learn how to interact with the spatial mapping; including how to place holograms and anchor them, which is one of the most important skills we will be required to grasp in order to develop an AR application.

There is a Unity Scene file in each example folder that allows we to open and run the example.

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Following on from these, another useful set of examples are inside the “Input” and “UX” folders, both contain a great number of scenes for how to model interactions within the application. Check back soon for the next part to this tutorial, where we will guide we through how to set up basic interactions and build and deploy an application to a MS HoloLens device or to the MS HoloLens Emulator.

Now that you have finished, try exploring:

  • The “Input” example scenes in the holotoolkit
  • The “UX” example scenes in the holotoolkit

We hope to be running some developer courses in the new year, on a first come first served basis. If you require any help, or would like to get in contact with us regarding developer courses, please contact us info@pauley.co.uk or at our forums http://pauley.proboards.com/

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PAULEY deliver NCHSR and HS2 training technology of the future

The recent Skills, Employment and Education Strategy (SEE) document released by HS2 Ltd in October 2018 (https://www.hs2.org.uk/documents/hs2-skills-employment-and-education-strategy/) highlights the critical importance that HS2 will bring to the UK’s infrastructure portfolio, and the vital role that the scheme plays in educating and training the infrastructure and rail workforce in opening up new opportunities.

HS2 and the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR) share a common vision – to embrace future technology and to enable tomorrow’s workforce today. Their approach to training focuses on two key areas – how can we deploy tomorrow’s technology today and how do we make the training relevant and engaging?

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Here at PAULEY we as industry leaders also share this vision and have been pioneering the use of Mixed Reality Technologies across the rail industry and beyond – setting the  standard for future training.  We have been changing the face of digital training for railway apprentices and engineers for nearly 5 years and demonstrate how the future of learning in the railway industry is through immersive technologies. Immersive technologies are becoming more affordable, and represent a paradigm shift in how vital technical training can be undertaken in an innovate way that offers students and delegates the opportunity to explore technically challenging scenarios first-hand without the need for expensive and sometimes dangerous equipment. There is a further fundamental point to learning this way – adopting real time data visualisation enables more effective communication with delivery teams and front-line workers, supporting higher safety and productivity levels.

HS2 will be the new high-speed backbone of Britain’s rail network, but it’s much more than just a railway. It is a catalyst for growth: revitalising the country, creating new opportunities for jobs and skills, regenerating towns and cities, and bringing us all closer as a nation.

The employment and economic potential of the HS2 Programme, with an initial opportunity to upskill the UK’s construction workforce, followed by the creation of employment opportunities generated once the railway is operational, is huge. There is a real focus on promoting increased skills and employment via the supply chain to address the skills challenges faced not only by HS2 but also in the wider transport infrastructure sector.

Part of the solution lies in the establishment of the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), which opened in Birmingham and Doncaster in September 2017. The NCHSR provides an industry-led curriculum, delivering the highly skilled workforce needed to deliver the HS2 Programme and the future skills required by the UK’s rail industry. The College acts as a flagship facility for training in the railway industry, helping to attract, educate and train the talent needed by the sector. Learning is strongly focussed on practical teaching, with internal and external workshop, virtual and augmented reality and employer-based work placements.

One of the main safety challenges faced by students is limited access to an operational railway and trackside equipment, especially as it’s dangerous for them to be alongside or on live track or engineering projects without the necessary training, or competencies. In addition, the lecturers of the NCHSR wanted a way to bring the railway into the college, so students could visually see and understand through 3D digital assets, immersive Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality experiences.

This is where PAULEY really excels and is the reason we were selected to work with NCHSR.

For the past 6 months we have been helping the NCHSR improve and augment their teaching material to fit the current generation’s media consumption habits.  Producing a range of training modules using innovative technology such as AR HoloLens headsets, and VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift, our clear aim has been to help the next generation of rail workers learn the modern practises in ways that are as immersive and interesting as possible.

The creation of 3D rail scenes and components aligned to the development of a highly intuitive and immersive Augmented Reality application has enabled students to explore various rail elements and individual components of conventional and high-speed rail. In turn this has enabled them to learn where the componentry is used in the field, what it looks like and listen to the voice-over that provides the learning element of what each component is used for.

The end result is content that is far more interesting and engaging for the end user, which is extremely important in this industry where an untrained professional could lead to security, health and financial risks. By working in this way PAULEY are able to assist HS2, NCHSR and many other clients with achieving their vision of enabling tomorrow’s workforce today.

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Through engaging students with interactive digital assets, the NCHSR and PAULEY have increased the motivation for them to learn. Previous learning assets were simple 2D black and white line drawings and emerging them in a virtual environment and allowing them to learn at their own pace only increases knowledge retention through learning by doing.

Our previous blogs have espoused the need to train new students, in new skills in a new way, that engages, excites and most of all, inspires. What PAULEY are doing with the NCHSR is putting that theory into practice. By creating a new cohort of infrastructure workers, learning in ways that are truly immersive, PAULEY are supporting HS2 and the UK infrastructure sector meet it’s challenges head on.

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