Technicians, field workers and other professionals looking for a legitimate reason to don a mixed-reality headset at work can now build a stronger case with a new app from Microsoft.
The software giant has released a beta version of a Power BI app for Mixed Reality, allowing workers to explore the business intelligence and data analytics software’s dashboards and interactive reports using Microsoft’s HoloLens headset. The app, which joins the Power BI web, desktop and mobile apps, is available now in the Microsoft Store, formerly the Windows Store app marketplace, which is accessible on Windows 10 devices.
Combined with a HoloLens unit, the app displays data points, charts, graphs and other visualizations that appear to float in midair in front of the user and can update in real time.
Mixed reality is Microsoft’s take on virtual and augmented reality using an array of Windows devices, including affordable headsets from hardware partners Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo.
Signaling that Microsoft means business by releasing a mixed-reality version of Power BI, the app requires a $3,000 HoloLens, an untethered visor that contains all the hardware components required to overlay 3D computer images over the physical world. Naturally, without a monitor, mobile display and traditional computer input devices, Microsoft had to devise ways for users to interact with the software.
“You can experience Power BI content in two modes—you can either pin it on top of a specific location in the real world (such as a machine or meeting room), or have it follow you around in a ‘docking belt’ at the bottom of your view port, allowing you to focus on different dashboards and reports as needed,” explained Microsoft Program Manager Maya Shenhav, in a blog post.
In addition to gestures, the app allows users to issue voice commands to tailor the experience. “You can use the ‘Follow me’ voice command to pick up a visual that will follow your gaze, then use the ‘Dock’ command to place it in your docking belt, and the ‘Place here’ command to place the visual in a specific location,” added Shenhav.
Borrowing from the mobile versions of the app, Power BI for Mixed Reality also supports QR codes. By printing out a QR code and placing it near a piece of industrial machinery, office equipment or other physical objects, users can cause Power BI visualizations to sprout into view when the HoloLens’ cameras detect it.
On the PC front, Microsoft recently released the March 2018 update for the Power BI desktop client. New features include tooltips on report pages, the general availability of bookmarking and enhancements to the SAP HANA connector. Meanwhile, the Power BI service has gained a new persistent filter feature that retains the various changes made by users while interacting with reports, eliminating the need to re-create the steps they took to arrive at a desired view of a given report when they log back into Power BI.