To create virtual spaces for customers and businesses, Microsoft has joined the race to build a metaverse inside Teams, following Facebook’s recent rebranding as Meta.
Next year, Microsoft is launching a collaborative platform for virtual experiences named Mesh for direct use within Microsoft Teams. The platform combines the company’s mixed reality and HoloLens work with meetings and video calls, allowing anyone to participate thanks to animated avatars.
Microsoft and Meta emerge as competitors in the metaverse’s intense competition, particularly for the future of work.
To make meetings more interactive after months of working remotely and adjusting to hybrid work, Microsoft Mesh was developed based on “Together Mode” and other experiments. Mesh, known as the future of Microsoft Teams meetings, will be introduced in the first half of 2022.
In an interview with The Verge, Nicole Herskowitz, general manager for Microsoft Teams, stated they became exhausted by virtual meetings, finding it difficult to stay engaged and focused after only 30 or 40 minutes. That initial meeting fatigue has resulted in the release of “Together Mode,” and now Microsoft launches Mesh in the hopes of reducing the cognitive overload due to staying on video calls all day.
Microsoft team will create new 3D avatars in a metaverse environment. However, users can still choose an animated version in 2D and 3D meetings without wearing a VR headset with the avatar representing themselves. Principal product manager for Microsoft Mesh Katie Kelly stated that users could decide how to present themselves with various customized options. To animate the avatar, Microsoft will use AI to interpret users’ vocal cues. These animations also include the raising hand option when users switch to a more immersive 3D meeting.
Multiple devices can access these virtual environments thanks to the animated avatar work, although they work best with a VR or AR headset. According to Kelly, human experience is Microsoft’s highest priority, so the feeling of presence, talking to somebody, making eye contact, and reactions will be crucial. Microsoft even supports translation and transcription, allowing users to communicate with a coworker in a virtual Teams space worldwide with fewer language barriers.
Mesh integration appears to be the most useful with immersive spaces, particularly in building a metaverse for businesses. People can network and socialize with games or even use Microsoft apps to cooperate on projects.
Within Teams, businesses can create their own virtual spaces or metaverses. For example, before the pandemic, Accenture built its own virtual campus for employees. It later proved helpful in approaching new hires during the pandemic.
The battle between Microsoft and Meta turns out to be fierce in the metaverse era, where Microsoft has years of experience investing in many releases known as HoloLen’s work and acquisition of AltspaceVR. However, Microsoft and Meta are not the only two rivals in the combat. Many companies have emerged using platforms like Spatial to provide virtual spaces for events, meetings, and networking opportunities.
The metaverse battle seems to be just the first phase when both Meta and Microsoft own a large available number of users. While Meta has billions of daily users across Facebook and Instagram, Microsoft possesses the millions of daily Teams users and integration into Office, making the fight even more intense.