Over the past week, augmented reality smartphone game Pokémon Go has exploded in popularity, pushing millions of players across the globe out of their homes to explore real-world locations whilst trying to capture the digital monsters using their smartphones. Besides racing to the top of the charts in the mobile market, the GPS-powered game has also pulled augmented reality technology into the spotlight.
In an interview with CNBC, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he hopes the ongoing Pokemon craze and record-breaking success so far will generate positive things for the AR sector as well as his company's own AR headset, the HoloLens.
When asked if he thought Microsoft had missed an opportunity to have Pokemon Go on its AR device, Nadella said he doesn't think so. However, he does believe that the mechanics of the popular app itself makes it a perfect fit for HoloLens.
"If you think about it, the game physics of that app are built for HoloLens," Nadella said. "Of course, the phone is a great way because the installed base on the phone is so enormous that it makes it possible. But if you think about what that game on HoloLens would mean. You're not trying to use a phone when you can actually just use your eyes to look through and have that augmented reality experience."
Beyond its promising possibilities in the gaming industry, Nadella says AR technology could "fundamentally change" the industrial sector which Microsoft is currently focusing on.
"To me, industrial scenarios – whether it be education, training, manufacturing, architecture, or industrial design – they're going to be fundamentally changed by augmented reality," Nadella said "So it's the ultimate computing paradigm, and I'm happy for Pokémon, but I'm happy for even these industrial applications."
General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who was also speaking with Nadella, said his company is "quite keen" on Microsoft's headset, saying that although it isn't the only one on the market, it is "quite advanced." He also notes that AR technology and its applications could possibly be worth billions to the industrial sector by improving mechanical training and therefore boosting productivity.
"Let's say because you could fix everything right the first time, you had a chance to visualize and manage the human data interface down by 10%. That's probably worth $50bn or something," Immelt said. "I'm not a great gamer, so I can't really say how much that's worth, but the industrial applications of this are going to be billions of dollars of productivity."
"If you get sick of your iPhone, you just throw it away and buy another one. You don't do that with a jet engine or a gas turbine... So our ability to deliver in this distributed global network, more productivity tools, is like gold for our customers."
Microsoft recently announced that Japan Airlines used its HoloLens device to develop two proof-of-concept programmes to train flight crew trainees looking to take on a co-pilot position and another that will serve as supplemental training for mechanical engineers.
Meanwhile, John Hanke, CEO of Pokemon Go developer Niantic Labs, teased that the free-to-play game could possibly make its way to AR devices such as HoloLens.
"That may be a fun thing to take advantage of," Hanke told Business Insider.