Microsoft is making a strong bid to bolster its version of the metaverse as it looks to roll out 3D avatars and immersive meetings for its Microsoft Teams communication platform.

You might define the metaverse as essentially an immersive internet where virtual experiences are interoperable, and also offer a continuity of the user’s digital identity. It’s not a new idea, as fully-functional immersive social platforms have been around since even the early days of consumer VR, although the concept seems to be picking up traction now that the established names in tech are making more concrete efforts.

First announced back at Microsoft Ignite in March, Mesh allows developers to create multi-user XR applications built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing arm.

Now Microsoft is gearing up to offer competition to the rest of the known tech world with the announcement of Mesh for Microsoft Teams, which effectively brings those previous efforts to build cross-platform immersive spaces and 3D avatars natively to the Teams communication platform, replete with support across mobile, PC, Microsoft VR headsets, and HoloLens 2.

“The feature combines the mixed-reality capabilities of Microsoft Mesh, which allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences, with the productivity tools of Microsoft Teams, where people can join virtual meetings, send chats, collaborate on shared documents and more,” the company says.

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Coming sometime in 2022, Mesh for Microsoft Teams will offer a new ‘Immersive experience’ option which will allow Teams users to build a 3D avatar and either use it in place of a standard webcam, or selecting it as their avatar for AR or VR interactions. While Mesh for Teams is admittedly an XR-focused offering meant for live face-to-face collaboration, when used in place of a webcam (read: without an XR headset) the 3D avatar is animated to interpret vocal cues.

Image courtesy Microsoft

Mesh for Microsoft Teams will roll out with “pre-built immersive spaces to support a variety of contexts, from meetings to social mixers,” the company says. At some point, organizations will also be able build bespoke immersive spaces so colleagues can interact.

Microsoft Teams’ large enterprise usership and interoperability with its cloud infrastructure, video conferencing, and family of Microsoft 365 products automatically positions it as a strong competitor for would-be metaverse users.

Undoubtedly the company’s biggest competition is Meta (formerly Facebook), which announced last week that it was bolstering efforts to shift its business toward building its version of the metaverse, something that saw a complete rebrand of the company.

Meta launched its own work-focused immersive space back in summer. Called Horizon Workrooms the virtual collaboration platform connects both VR and video chat users in the same place, the latter of which includes support for both Zoom and Facebook video chat.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • MeowMix

    Mesh for Microsoft Teams, which effectively brings those previous efforts to build cross-platform immersive spaces and 3D avatars natively to the Teams communication platform, replete with support across mobile, PC, Microsoft VR headsets, and HoloLens 2.

    It should be pointed out that the Microsoft showcase features Accenture as a ‘Mesh for Teams’ usecase.
    Accenture states in the showcase they have ‘Mesh for Teams’ deployed on all their work PCs and on 60,000 recently deployed VR headsets. Here’s the kicker, Accenture purchased 60,000 Quest2 headsets last month.

    So the question is: does that mean ‘Microsoft Teams’ could be coming to the Quest2 ?

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  • Andrew Jakobs

    Integrated into Teams is really great, makes it easier to just start using it for remote working.

  • VRWeeb

    All these company is missing the point of making a metaverse
    It’s not making another ecosystem for xr
    It’s making a common standard for xr related data like what we do for image with bmp, jpg and png, audio with wav, ogg and mp3
    Now what we have is FBX and Obj for 3d objects
    And VRM for avatar exclusively for unity
    hell the whole VR ecosystem now built on unity (and some unreal)
    making a metaverse means making the standard independent away from unity (or unreal)
    What we need is a os-level support for new a xr media standard where application can build on
    Not another VRChat

    • ViRGiN

      It’s Microsoft, not Meta. Wait for the real rollout

      • VRWeeb

        It’s just a company
        Meta, Microsoft, Google, Valve, Apple
        Doesn’t matter
        What matter is what they do
        And what they do is building their own ecosystem trying stay in the market

  • guest

    Its uncanny how much they make coworkers look like zombies with caked on makeup and fake eyebrows!

    • gothicvillas

      They make avatars look like transgenders

      • asdf

        yupp with a blank aimless stare into the distance.
        its funny they speak of direct contact like eye contact yet you would have to both position perfectly in front of each other and look straight to have eye contact. so no its not the same

  • I prefer this graphical style to the one of Workrooms

  • silvaring

    If one company can get it working well its Microsoft, they’ve done awesome work with depth scanning and volumetric capture. The Azure Kinect devkit is an amazing piece of gear for the price.

  • silvaring

    Wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes Microsofts next foray into WMR, through Windows 11, the timing is all so neat. Hand tracking is going to have to be an out of the box feature for the next wave of headsets though, which co-incidentally Microsoft has already been optimizing for years with their Hololens platform.

  • Cragheart

    Currents headsets are too bulky and cumbersome to be used in such ways.

  • 1:13 That’s all bullshot right there. There is literally zero chance you have the mouth sync that accurate to what’s being said in real-time right now. A company like Facebook has been at this for years and isn’t even close to that level in real-time yet (not on their basic avatars). And you expect me to believe you’ve already surpassed their level of real-time tracking and mouth syncing. Yeah, right, Microsoft–I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. Even the hand tracking and the like seems a bit of bullshot too. Someone should keep a record of this now and then compare how close it matches up when they try this themselves in the near future. . . . (reality of where it’s actually at right now)

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