Autodesk will bring digital designs into the real world with Microsoft's HoloLens

Augmented reality headgear will bring CAD files to life

Autodesk and Microsoft have teamed up to bring virtual product designs into the real world using augmented reality. The two companies announced on Monday that Autodesk Fusion 360 -- software that lets users design, test, and ultimately manufacture physical objects -- will connect with Microsoft’s HoloLens headset.

Right now, details about the final product are scarce, but the two companies have spent time working together over the past year on bringing 3D models from a screen to the real world by displaying them to users wearing the HoloLens. The collaboration could make it possible for designers working in Fusion to work together on digital models in the physical world, if everyone involved is wearing one of Microsoft’s augmented reality headsets. 

Doing that has the potential to be a boon for product designers, since they wouldn’t have to spend as much time manufacturing physical prototypes to be able to see how a product could look in real life. The HoloLens likely won't replace physical prototyping entirely, though: the device's field of view is fairly limited at this point, which means that it could be hard for designers to get a full feeling of what an some objects would look like, especially if they're particularly large. 

This partnership is a critical one for Microsoft. Up until this point, the company has been working with other firms to develop bespoke applications for its augmented reality headset that show the device’s potential, but don't necessarily reach beyond the walls of the organizations that develop them. This new program could be useful for any design professional, which could make the HoloLens appealing to companies that don’t want to develop their own applications.

People who want to get their hands on an early version of the HoloLens can ask to purchase developer kits from Microsoft that cost $3,000. The company has said that it will begin making the HoloLens headsets available to handpicked developers during the first quarter of 2016. 

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Blair Hanley Frank

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