Microsoft is expanding its list of “mixed reality” tools with a program called Microsoft Layout, which lets people design and visualize real spaces in either Microsoft HoloLens or a virtual reality headset. Layout allows Windows Mixed Reality users to define a virtual floor plan and then move 3D models around on it in a VR headset, previewing how a room would look and feel. Then, they can go to a physical location and view that layout using HoloLens — either alone or with other designers — to see how these new objects would fit alongside existing ones.
There are lots of existing design tools that do similar things to Layout, including augmented reality apps that let you preview furniture in a space. Microsoft’s video suggests that Layout is more business-focused than some of these apps, since users are shown designing an efficient factory floor — and in general, augmented reality glasses have made more inroads among business customers than ordinary consumers. Microsoft has already partnered with Adobe, Trimble, and other companies to release HoloLens apps for designers and engineers.
Microsoft kicked off its forays into “mixed reality” with its HoloLens headset in 2015, and it’s since created a larger Windows Mixed Reality (formerly called “Windows Holographic”) product line, which includes virtual reality headsets. Microsoft Layout is a step toward expanding what Windows Mixed Reality can do, and making it more indispensable to some of its primary customers.