Since Microsoft started shipping its HoloLens headset to companies last year, the company seems to have focused most its efforts on workplace scenarios, exploring various use cases for Firstline Workers and Information Workers. But according to a new patent published in February of this year, it seems that Microsoft is thinking about using HoloLens as a 3D mapping solution that could share rendering data with other AR devices (via WinBuzzer).
In the patent filed in April 2016, Microsoft explains how an augmented reality system (presumably HoloLens) could access pre-existing rendering data when the AR device is used in the real world. The patent mentions a “global 3D model” that would allow users of AR devices to “explore and augment a virtual version of the real-world remotely.” You can get more details in the patent description blow:
An augmented reality (AR) system receives a plurality of local 3D models of a part of a real-world environment, each having been generated by a different AR device when located in the real-world environment. The local 3D models are combined to generate a global 3D model, at least part of which is transmitted to a device remote from the real-world environment. The global 3D model represents a greater portion of the real-environment than any of the local 3D models individually. The AR system receives rendering data from the remote device, and transmits it to an AR device when the AR device is located in the real-world environment. Alternatively, the rendering data may be transmitted from the remote device to the AR device via a network directly. The rendering data is for use in rendering a virtual object at the AR device in the real-world environment.
According to the patent description, AR devices could store 3D mapping data in the cloud or transmit it directly to other AR devices located in the real world environment. Overall, this pretty much synonymous to a crowdsourcing initiative, with Microsoft emphasizing that its global 3D would "represent a greater portion of the real-environment than any of the local 3D models individually."
As HoloLens remains exclusively accessible to developers and businesses, it will probably be years before mixed reality headsets become popular enough for such a project to become feasible. However, it's worth reminding that Google is working on something similar with its Project Tango platform.