Microsoft Mesh is bringing the metaverse to Teams
Microsoft’s Ignite conference for business partners kicks off today, and with it come tons of announcements across the company’s portfolio. One of the big announcements is that Microsoft Mesh, the company’s mixed reality platform, is coming to Microsoft Teams to enhance the remote collaboration experience.
This will allow coworkers to meet and interact with each other as virtual avatars, whether that’s in a standard Teams meeting or an immersive virtual space – the metaverse. Yes, the metaverse is the hot new buzzword – so much so that Facebook recently changed its name to Meta – but Microsoft also believes it’s the future of collaboration. In fact, Accenture has been working with Microsoft Mesh for a while, and even built a virtual campus for its employees to come together in all sorts of activities. Even new hires are welcomed to the team using virtual spaces, replacing the typical onboarding experience in person.
Initially, Mesh for Microsoft Teams will be just about replacing your presence in a video call with a digital avatar that represents you. This is an attempt to address a common problem some people may have had with working from home, which is having to put on formal clothes for a meeting. With virtual avatars, users don’t have to worry about how they look in real life, and they can look and feel engaged in the conversation. Teams will use your audio to determine if your avatar’s lips should move, and in the future, you can also use your camera to track more detailed facial and head movements to make the avatar more life-like.
Then, immersive spaces – or metaverses – will be created, allowing users to interact with each other in a more natural way. Teams will roll out with a few preset spaces, but companies can also create their own and deploy them in their organization, similar to Accenture’s implementation. Avatars are available across different Mesh experiences, so if you use an avatar in a Microsoft Teams meeting, other users can then recognize you if you’re in a virtual space together.
Ultimately, the goal is to provide a better way to collaborate than simply having a Teams channel and typical video meetings. Microsoft Mesh in Teams will begin rolling out in preview in the first half of 2022, and Microsoft says it will be available on PC, mobile, and mixed reality headsets. It’s unclear just how many of these features will work without a headset, or how they will work, but we may see more about it as Ignite continues throughout this week.