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Microsoft expands past HoloLens for Teams

The software giant partners with another headset maker, RealWear, to bring its Teams software to even more headset users.

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RealWear's HMT-1 is designed to help people in "hard hat environments."

RealWear

Some companies are already using Microsoft's HoloLens headset to video chat with workers in oil fields and on factory floors. Now, Microsoft hopes to expand that by working with another headset company to bring Teams to their devices too.

Microsoft said sometime this spring, its Teams software will begin working with devices made by RealWear, a company whose headsets are also used in the industrial world to help car technicians get help from experts on the other side of the world, or oil companies to save flight time flying various administrative teams around the globe.

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"Our device is functionally equivalent to a tablet," said Sanjay Jhawar, president at RealWear. Being able to send and receive photos and documents through Microsoft's file and document sharing apps, or start a video chat with one person wearing the headset, and another using a phone or computer on the other end. "It's a very good fit."

Microsoft's move to expand Teams to work with headsets is the latest in its efforts to become a central app as more employees opt to work remotely and at home. Headsets in particular are becoming more popular in the business world. Companies such as the retail giant Walmart have invested in virtual reality headsets for training employees. And oil refiners Chevron and Shell are using headsets quickly connect engineers and administrators with oil fields without days of delay from travel.

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RealWear's headset is designed to put a camera on the wearer's head and a small screen somewhere in their field of view.

RealWear

RealWear, whose headsets start at $2,500 apiece (about $1,000 less than Microsoft's HoloLens), isn't a typical virtual reality headset, designed so that the screens immerse you in a computer-generated world. It also doesn't offer mixed reality such as what the HoloLens does, putting computer-generated images over the real world. 

Instead, RealWear's HMT-1, as its entry-level headset is called, is designed to put a camera on the wearer's head, and a small screen somewhere in their field of view. The headsets are designed to only be controlled with voice, so that someone climbing up a windmill or in an oil rig won't need to fumble with controls to get it working.

"It works with all their safety equipment, where other user interfaces aren't usable," Jhawar said.

Microsoft plans to expand its Teams software to other headset makers, though the company wouldn't say which ones. 

"We want to make it available every place we can," said Jared Spataro, Microsoft's marketing head for Teams.