Tuesday, November 30

Mesh: the new Microsoft Teams feature for the Metaverse | Digital Trends Spanish

The COVID-19 pandemic put much of the world to work from home, having to turn to applications such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet to organize and get in touch with the rest of the colleagues.

While it has proved that this methodology works at general levels and work efficiency has been maintained (or even improved), what has been lost are the social experiences typical of a workplace, such as conversations over a coffee or a casual encounter with someone in a hallway. And Microsoft is a company that has it very clear.

According to research carried out by the company, “people feel more present and participatory in meetings when everyone turns on their video cameras.” However, that practice is not something that suits everyone, so most of the time we see people as a static image or a bubble with the initials.

As a result of this problem, Microsoft has presented Mesh for Teams, a feature that will begin to be available in 2022. It is a kind of alternative to Meta / Facebook.

Mesh will allow people in different physical locations to share collaborative holographic experiences in mixed reality using Teams tools, the application that includes video calls, chat windows, and the ability to share documents.

In fact, Mesh builds on existing Teams features, such as the Together mode (in which all participants appear in a virtual space, as if they were in a theater room rather than being separated into squares) and the view of the presenter, which make meetings more collaborative and immersive.

It’s a feature designed to make online meetings more personal, engaging and fun, accessible from standard smartphones and laptops to mixed reality headsets.

But that’s not all, according to the company it is also a gateway to the metaverse: a permanent digital world that is inhabited by a virtual version of the people, places and objects that surround us.

“Think of the metaverse as a new version – or a new vision – of the Internet, one where people come together to communicate, collaborate and share with a virtual presence on any device,” says Microsoft’s statement.

Mesh for Teams

Specifically, with the new Mesh function, users will be able to join a standard Teams meeting and will appear in the form of a custom avatar (quite similar to a character from the series of The Sims games), rather than appearing as a still image or video.

“For starters, we’ll take audio cues so that as you speak, your face will perk up,” said Katie Kelly, project manager at Microsoft. “You will also have animations that add extra expressiveness to the avatars and your hands will move.”

However, the idea is that later on, Microsoft’s artificial intelligence will be applied, so the camera can be used “to hint where your mouth is and imitate your head and facial movements,” Kelly said.

The experience will continue to evolve over time as sensor technology improves across devices from mobile phones to virtual reality headsets, or from single-microphone laptops to HoloLens with six microphones and 16 cameras.

“Whatever the device, mixed reality technology will give each user an avatar that provides a sense of presence, allowing them to express themselves when they don’t want to be in front of a camera,” the statement said.

Mesh for Teams

According to Alex Kipman, Microsoft’s technical associate, this is “something that customers are really asking of us, and it combines with the vision of mixed reality that we have been working on for 12 years. Everything is taking shape ”.

Kipman and his team have spent several years building Mesh-enabled immersive spaces with the Accenture company, which has more than 600,000 people serving clients around the world.

Before the pandemic, Accenture built a virtual campus called the Nth Floor, where employees could gather from anywhere for presentations, parties and other events, but later they used this technology for the process of integrating new employees into the company.

New hires meet in Teams and then enter One Accenture Park, a futuristic virtual space that is like an amusement park, yet includes a central conference room, another boardroom, and monorails that take new users to other exhibits. .

Mesh For Teams

That is what Mesh will try to achieve in Teams. In fact, companies will also be able to build immersive spaces – or “metaverses”, as the company puts it – within the application.

Initially, the feature will come with a set of pre-designed immersive spaces to offer a variety of contexts, but later on, organizations will be able to build custom immersive spaces like the Nth Floor with Mesh and implement them in Teams.

In this way, Mesh users can bring their avatars to these spaces to “socialize, collaborate on projects and experience chance encounters that can lead to innovation.”

According to Jeff Teper, Microsoft’s corporate vice president, an immersive space within a team’s channel in Microsoft Teams could serve to reinforce cohesion and common purpose among coworkers, as well as make them feel as if they are all physically together.

For example, a product design team could create an immersive space for your daily gathering. On a virtual wall there could be photographs of clients, on another a blackboard that shows the tasks of each one by color, and on a table there could be a prototype. The possibilities, it seems, will be endless.

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