Recognising the MTC's work in the fields of augmented, mixed and virtual reality, in particular its ability to deliver high-value generating applications in an enterprise environment, the award means that the organisation will be able to help companies remotely using Microsoft visualisation programmes.

The accolade came after a stringent examination by Microsoft of the MTC's capabilities and breadth of mixed reality applications, concentrating on client and end-user experiences. MTC and Microsoft will now have the opportunity to work on joint projects with companies who can benefit from the technology. The organisation will also work with Microsoft to develop apps for advanced manufacturing, and teach other companies how to use Microsoft's mixed reality programmes.

MTC technology manager David Varela says the partnership is already opening doors.

"This is a great piece of recognition for the MTC team from Microsoft, and will lead to new markets and opportunities for us. It recognises the quality of the applications we are developing, and the benefits and results for our clients.”

The MTC uses Microsoft's HoloLens device, as well as other VR and AR technologies. HoloLens leverages a holographic computer to overlay virtual images on to real-world scenarios, allowing users to simulate complex processes and operations, and thus plan for effective factory or workshop layouts. The device can also be used to provide machine operator instructions, or for training purposes.

Rather than put users in a fully computer-generated world, as virtual reality does, HoloLens allows users to place 3D digital models in the room alongside them. The product does not have wires or external cameras, and does not have to be connected to a phone or PC, so users can walk around the objects they create, and interact with them using gestures and voice. Everything can be managed remotely, using ‘Remote Assist’ and ‘Remote Line Walk’, saving time and money.

"One of the benefits is that clients can access the technology remotely,” says Varela. “As long as they have a computer terminal or a tablet, and internet access, they can see what an operator deployed on site is doing in real time. In effect they have their own visualisation laboratory connected to a remote expert who they can access on demand. This is of particular benefit to SMEs, solving problems and helping their businesses, while being easier and cheaper for everyone. It can also be linked to artificial intelligence, helping with predictive maintenance and automatic validation of processes, smart tools or remote equipment, or product auditing, saving time and cost.

"Importantly, the news that Microsoft will shortly launch HoloLens 2 will open up even more opportunities for organisations to embrace mixed reality,” he continues. “We are excited to be working with Microsoft to help organisations take advantage of the greater immersion, comfort and time-to-value that this new device will offer.”

MTC is already working with several blue chip clients, and has a number of other significant projects in the pipeline. The team is also planning on holding workshops to identify opportunities where this technology can help speed production, boost quality or increase worker safety.