Microsoft Corp’s video conferencing platform, Teams, was one of the biggest gainers as physical meetings moved virtual in the wake of the pandemic last year. After 1.5 years though, the world’s most valuable company is spicing it up by joining the metaverse bandwagon.
Microsoft will launch Mesh for Teams in the first half of 2022, bringing in the mixed reality capabilities into the videoconferencing platform. Teams, which has 250 million monthly active users, is now being positioned as the gateway to Metaverse.
The announcement was made at the Microsoft Ignite 2021 event on November 2.
This comes a week after Facebook renamed itself to Meta to reflect the company’s ambition in the metaverse space. The company is spending $10 billion this year on Facebook Reality Labs, which is building the metaverse.
Mesh for Teams
Microsoft Mesh is a virtual collaboration tool where people can interact with each other using 3D avatars or holographic images, which was launched in March 2021. Enterprise-focused, Mesh allows people to create metaverses for collaboration in the office environment, and was used by some companies like Accenture for on-boarding new employees and virtual collaborations across the teams in the world.
However with 250 million active users, Teams could be an ideal gateway for the company’s metaverse, said Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman.
“Mesh for Teams – which anyone will be able to access from standard smartphones and laptops to mixed-reality headsets – is designed to make online meetings more personal, engaging and fun. It’s also a gateway to the metaverse – a persistent digital world that is inhabited by digital twins of people, places and things. Think of the metaverse as a new version – or a new vision – of the internet, one where people gather to communicate, collaborate and share with personal virtual presence on any device,” the company said in a statement.
“The first step most users of Mesh for Teams will take is to join a standard Teams meeting as a customized avatar of themselves instead of as a static picture or on video. Organizations can also build immersive spaces – metaverses – within Teams. Mesh for Teams users can take their avatars into these spaces to mix and mingle, collaborate on projects and experience those serendipitous encounters that spark innovation,” the company said.
How will it work?
Mesh for Teams preview will begin the roll out in the first half of 2022. Users will have a variety of options to choose to create their own digital avatar.
Katie Kelly, a principal project manager at Microsoft working on Mesh for Teams, said, “To start, we will take audio cues so as you talk your face will animate. You will also have animations that bring additional expressivity to the avatars. Your hands will move. There will be a feeling of presence even though it’s as simple as being able to take your audio and manifest that as facial expressions. That’s the first release. The ambition is to closely follow that with Microsoft’s plethora of AI technologies so that we can use the camera to insinuate where your mouth is and mimic your head and facial movements,” Kelly added.