Aerospace manufacturer Boeing is launching a new venture arm of its company called HorizonX, and one of its first two investments is with an enterprise augmented reality software firm, it announced on Wednesday.

HorizonX will be an “innovation cell” that will combine money, business development, and incubator programs to help Boeing get to a where it sees the world in 2116. To mark its 100th anniversary last year, the manufacturer shared an optimistic vision of the future in its promotional materials.

“You can fly across town in minutes, or across the globe in under an hour. Whole communities are living on Mars and solar satellites are providing Earth with unlimited clean power,” a video on the HorizonX site proclaims.

Before it’s setting us on Mars, Boeing will be investing in Washington, D.C.-based Upskill, developer of the Skylight platform of which Boeing is also a customer. Skylight allows an enterprise to connect its applications to augmented reality headsets in a way that’s useful to frontline workers. Boeing is deploying Sklyingt and AR headsets across multiple locations for its manufacturing plants, maintenance and repair facilities, and distribution centres. One pilot project at a wiring harness assembly operations facility saw early results of a 25 per cent improvement in production time and better quality results.

A Youtube video from Boeing explains how the workers use voice interaction with their AR headsets, allowing them to keep both hands on the wiring work they’re doing.

The amount of Boeing’s investment in Upskill wasn’t disclosed, but combined with an investment from another Upskill customer in GE, the firm is describing it as a Series B funding round. GE is also an Upskill customer, using it to power a mix of AR headsets.

The second investment Boeing HorizonX announced today is in Zunum Aero, a Kirkland, Wash.-based aerospace firm that’s developing an aircraft with alternative propulsion. Its proposed regional aircraft would transport between 10-50 passengers within 1,000 miles and is powered by a battery-first hybrid propulsion system.



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