Microsoft announces its plans to join in the raise to develop a Metaverse. Microsoft announces plans to bring Microsoft Mesh at the Microsoft Ignite event today. Mesh is a collaborative virtual platform that would virtual experiences right into Microsoft Teams starting from next year. Microsoft plans can be said to be in competition with Facebook which recently rebranded as Meta, in the race to build the best virtual spaces for both consumers and businesses. Microsoft plans to combine the company’s effort in mixed reality and HoloLens’ work with meetings and video calls that users can participate in with respect to animated avatars.
Before now the Microsoft Mesh is presumed to be the future of Microsoft Teams meetings and plan to bring it to life by the first half of 2022. With this announcement it’s evident that Microsoft has is putting so much effort into ensuring meetings are more interactive helping people who work from home adjust to hybrid work.
In an interview, the General Manager for Microsoft Teams said “We got hit by meeting fatigue in the virtual world, after 30 or 40 minutes max in a meeting, it was very hard to stay engaged and focused.” He explained that the initial meeting fatigue was the inspiration behind the Together Mode. With the introduction of Microsoft Mesh, he hopes this will greatly reduce the cognitive overload of staying in video calls all day.
Microsoft reveals that when the Microsoft Teams is launched on the metaverse, users will not need to need to put a VR headset on to use them because they will come with new 3D avatars. Microsoft further discloses that these avatars will have the ability to represent users both in 2D and 3D meetings, meaning users can choose between having an animated version of themselves or turning the webcam on.
According to the Principal Product Manager for Microsoft Mesh in an interview said that “It’s not binary, so I can choose how I want to show up, whether it’s video or an avatar, and there’s a variety of customized options to choose how you want to be present in a meeting.” She further said that “We are able to interpret your vocal cues to animate that avatar, so it does feel present and it does feel like it’s there with you.”
Microsoft reveals that with the help of AI, user voice and avatar can be created seamlessly. For a meeting that requires 3D immersions, the avatar animations will also come with the ability to raise hands the moment a user hits the raise hand option or animate emoji around your avatar. The addition of immersive spaces deeply explains how Microsoft sees this Mesh integration as important, particularly in its efforts to build a metaverse for businesses. Microsoft has envisioned creating a virtual space inside Teams where users can interact with Microsoft apps, socialize with games or even collaborate on projects all within the metaverse environment.
These virtual environments have been said will work best with a VR or AR headset, but with the addition of the animated avatar work, it would be possible for the user across multiple devices. Kelly explains that “I think the thing that really separates how Microsoft is approaching metaverse and our own experiences is starting with the human experience, so the feeling of presence, talking to somebody, making eye contact, and reactions are going to be important.”
Microsoft also reveals that there will be in-build translation and transcription support. This will enable users to enter virtual Teams spaces with co-workers from across the world with zero language barriers. Kelly states that “The goal is that by the first half of next year, you’ll be able to go into an immersive space and then be able to collaborate and use Microsoft’s tools”
Microsoft also reveals that businesses will now be able to build their own virtual spaces, or metaverses, inside Teams. A technology Accenture experimented on before the pandemic while creating its own virtual space for employees. During the pandemic, the virtual space it created became very useful. So much useful that the company even used the virtual platform to onboard new hires at the height of the pandemic.
Microsoft’s vision of creating metaverse inside Teams comes just a few days after Facebook announces it rebranded company name, Meta. The company explained that the rebrand is part of its plan to continue to focus on its near future ambitions of developing the Metaverse. A concept similar to Microsoft, a concept where users can have a digital avatar that represents them in a virtual space. Meta’s Reality Labs division has been responsible for building consumer hardware and software, including the Quest VR headset, and teased its own vision of remote work using augmented and virtual reality last year.
According to The Verge, Microsoft and Meta clearly is set to compete heavily in the race to create a metaverse. It’s an area Microsoft has spent years investing in, with its HoloLens work and its acquisition of AltspaceVR. Microsoft and Meta aren’t alone, though. Many companies have started using platforms like Spatial to offer virtual spaces for events, meetings, and networking opportunities.
In the race to dominate the Metaverse space, both technology companies are depending on their huge user base to take a larger market share. Meta boasts billions of daily users across Facebook and Instagram to leverage for its metaverse ambitions, and Microsoft depends on the millions of daily Teams users and integration into Office to try to make the metaverse a reality for businesses. The metaverse battle for your digital avatars has just begun, more and more would continue to unfold as we look forward to seeing other recognized tech giants join the race.