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Satya Nadella talks up mixed reality for IT

At the Microsoft Ignite tech conference, CEO Satya Nadella shows off mixed reality's benefits for collaboration and security.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showed off upcoming mixed reality hardware and software as part of his keynote at the Microsoft Ignite conference, saying the business will enhance both security and collaboration. 

Ignite is an IT-focused event held in Orlando, and during his keynote, Nadella spoke of Microsoft's mission to use "technology to empower people," and AI to transform tools and applications. But one of the most buzzworthy parts of his keynote was a brief demonstration of how businesses can use mixed reality and virtual reality to improve teamwork.

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Ford's mixed reality demo at Ignite. 

Microsoft/Screenshot by CNET

He spoke of the way auto company Ford has replaced 5,000-pound (2.3-tonne) clay models of cars with virtual versions, setting up a demonstration of how engineers and designers use Microsoft's mixed reality HoloLens headset to work on concept car designs.

Security was a big part of the pitch for Hololens, explaining how Ford, for example, can use HoloLens to allow design documents and mockups to only be viewed by authorized users, preventing paper copies from falling into the wrong hands. The demo was similar to one our colleagues at Roadshow got to try last week at Ford's Dearborn Product Development Center.

But HoloLens is an expensive technology with limited availability. The Ford demo expanded to include a designer in a separate room, beaming into the car design session via one of the upcoming Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets, which will cost less than $300 (converts to around £220 or AU$380) and work on mainstream Windows desktops and laptops. The demo here used the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset, which is expected to go on sale Oct. 17 for $299 (about £220 or AU$380) or $399 (about £295 or AU$500) with a pair of motion controllers. 

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Ford can use inexpensive Acer mixed reality headsets alongside the higher-end HoloLens. 

Microsoft/Screenshot by CNET

And it isn't just the auto industry that sees the benefit of mixed and augmented reality. Nadella briefly mentioned a few other companies that are already using these tools. He showed a short video clip from Trimble, a mining technology company that uses both AI and mixed reality to create virtual versions of mines to explore, and how Tetra Pak, a food packaging company, uses HoloLens to send experts to any production line virtually to solve problems.

Now Playing: Watch this: Ford demos mixed reality car design at Microsoft Ignite
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Microsoft Ignite runs Sept. 25-29. The highlights so far, from our colleagues at ZDNet:

Windows 10 Creators Update: The next big free Windows upgrade hits on Oct. 17

Windows Mixed Reality headsets: Affordable Windows-compatible VR headsets are coming this fall from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo.