Time for Digitization at ZHAW: Augmented Reality Lab Introduction with HoloLens 2.0.

For many, augmented reality glasses are either a gadget for gamers or a thing from the future. However, the Zurich University of Applied Sciences ZHAW has proven in a project with UMB that, with Microsoft HoloLens 2.0, innovative business applications are very much possible. Introduction to the bio lab of the ZHAW Wädenswil is now done without time constraints and in a sustainable way through an AR-supported tour.

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The Zurich University of Applied Sciences ZHAW has used the time during the pandemic for an innovative digitization step. Previous to the pandemic, all students and guests in Wädenswil had to attend a live training session in order to become fit for the lab in terms of organization and safety. Individual dates were set for the introductory sessions, and it was rarely possible to conduct the training sessions in groups.


The pandemic was an innovation driver for the ZHAW

Due to the pandemic, it was no longer possible at all to conduct group training sessions. At the end of 2020, the ZHAW therefore launched a project together with UMB to be able to carry out the laboratory introductions individually and independently of time. Microsoft HoloLens 2.0 was to be used for this purpose. Within a few months, an AR-supported tour through the lab was created with UMB, which enables a flexible and sustainable introduction to the lab.


More knowledge is retained with augmented reality

Today, students and guests are issued AR glasses at the entrance and use them to set off independently on a roughly 45-minute virtually assisted tour of the lab. During the tour, explanations are given on how the equipment works, where personal belongings can be stowed - or that windows must not be opened. Very important is training for emergencies. For example, everyone in the lab must know exactly what to do if a corrosive liquid splashes in someone's face.

The tour is available in German and English - various languages can be incorporated with little effort. In order to deepen and consolidate the knowledge gained, small tests are given with comprehension questions that have to be answered. Marilena Palmisano, research assistant and project manager at the ZHAW, says: «We expect that the interaction on the AR-supported tour will mean that even more of what is learned will be retained than in live lessons.»


Assembling AR content with the HoloLens software

Of course, Microsoft HoloLens 2.0 also includes software that enables the training content to be prepared. Structuring the content requires internal know-how - about the knowledge to be conveyed - and, of course, software knowhow. Alex Petermaier, Senior Solution Engineer at UMB, comments: «Of course, there is some initial effort required until one gets used to the logic. Nevertheless, working with this software is very intuitive and efficient. With appropriate training, the task can also be performed and maintained by internal employees.»


Almost limitless application possibilities for the Microsoft HoloLens 2.0

Now that HoloLens 2.0 is successfully in use at the ZHAW, it is possible to see many more potential applications in the future. If, for example, equipment in the laboratory in Wädenswil is defective, HoloLens 2.0 and Microsoft Teams could be used to tell the technicians remotely where the problem lies. This could save a trip to the lab altogether, or the technicians would know exactly what to do when they arrive on site. There are no limits to imagining many other possibilities…

I was amazed by the speed and ease with which UMB and HoloLens 2.0 were able to implement the AR-assisted lab launch.

Marilena Palmisano, Research Associate & Project Manager, ZHAW

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