Microsoft unveils Mesh, betting on mixed reality for gatherings and collaboration across platforms

A meeting in Microsoft Mesh, with an animated avatar (left), in-person participant (center) and photorealistic avatar (right) collaborating on a live virtual simulation. (Screenshot from Microsoft video.)

The avatar will see you now.

Or at least Microsoft hopes so. In a world still adjusting to the realities of remote work and life, the tech giant this morning doubled down on the concept with a new platform called Microsoft Mesh, representing its vision for how we’ll meet in the future.

Announced at the company’s virtual Ignite conference, Mesh promises to let people use headsets, computers and handheld devices to connect in virtual, 3D spaces, represented by both animated and photorealistic avatars.

Telemedicine in Microsoft Mesh. (Microsoft Photo)

The company says Mesh will work via its HoloLens 2 headset, but also virtual reality headsets including the Oculus Quest 2, and mobile phones, tablets and computers using Mesh-enabled apps.

Microsoft’s larger vision also puts it in direct competition with Facebook, the Oculus parent company, which has been pursuing its own plans for mixed reality gatherings and meetings.

Mesh is built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform, and promises to follow the cloud model of handling much of the technical work in the platform itself. In a technical overview of Mesh, the company says the goal is to create a “platform for developers to design immersive multiuser MR apps without having to worry about complex technical problems.”

Microsoft’s Alex Kipman and filmmaker James Cameron discuss Microsoft Mesh, in Microsoft Mesh, during the company’s Ignite virtual conference. (Microsoft Photo)

Alex Kipman, the Microsoft technical fellow who oversees the company’s HoloLens mixed reality headset and platform, unveiled the Mesh technology during the keynote address at Microsoft Ignite virtual conference Tuesday morning. He appeared in a presentation hosted in Mesh via Altspace VR, the virtual reality platform that Microsoft acquired in 2017.

Without going into detail, Kipman made it clear that Mesh will also be integrated with Microsoft Teams, the company’s digital hub for communication and collaboration.

“Envision a Mesh-enabled Microsoft Teams, where colleagues from around the globe can collaborate as if they’re physically there,” he said. “In a world of hybrid work, where ‘here’ can literally be anywhere and headquarters are no longer tied to a single physical location, Mesh will allow organizations to host mixed reality gatherings with everyone in the same room.”

Business scenarios are the company’s traditional bread-and-butter, but Kipman’s  presentation also previewed Mesh partnerships with Pokemon GO maker Niantic, filmmaker James Cameron and the deep sea exploration nonprofit OceanX, among others.

The company released two apps to launch the new platform, the Mesh App for HoloLens, and a Mesh-enabled version of AltspaceVR.

This content was originally published here.

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