Virtual and augmented reality products have experienced slow market-share growth over the last couple of years. Microsoft has made efforts to accelerate the sector with defining collaboration solutions.
The tech-giant recently unveiled an Azure-based developer SDK designed to take remote collaboration to unprecedented levels. Microsoft Mesh, the new technology, will allow workers to interact with holographic items and collaborate with life-like avatars of their colleagues.
With Microsoft Mesh, users in different locations can use compatible hardware and software to join magical virtual meetings. Users can see a virtual representation of each other and a common view of digital objects before them. This near-real experience is sure to foster collaboration efforts, allowing users to make changes to their projects in real-time.
Microsoft Mesh enables the creation of mixed-reality apps that foster collaboration and work on multiple devices. The new developer SDK can help resolve technical problems that have limited virtual environments’ growth, promoting mixed-reality development. Employees can then exploit different platforms like Oculus, Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets, and regular smartphones with collaborative apps.
Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, believes that Mesh will emulate Xbox Live’s presence in the gaming industry. During the company’s Ignite event, he went on about the strides they had taken with Xbox and hopes that they can do the same for Mesh.
“We started out with single players and created communities that united gamers,” he said. “How much can we achieve if we brought this to mixed reality? Mesh creates a natural way of interacting holographically with colleagues.”
At the moment, Microsoft has not released 3D photo-realistic holoportation to the public. However, workers can use HoloLens headsets to engage in remote collaboration. Meeting participants appear as animated avatars and use 2D or 3D content within the shared virtual environment. The tech-giant sourced these avatars from the AltspaceVR social network.
Microsoft hopes to support holoportation to allow people to join virtual spaces as themselves, replacing the initial avatars. The app leverages Microsoft Account MSA and Azure Active Directory to authenticate users and encrypt information.
Interactive Virtual Meetings
According to Wayne Kurtzman, IDC’s research director, employees can expect unprecedented digital experiences with Mesh. “Microsoft Mesh will prove decisive in creating interactive virtual meetings as teams embrace remote working options. We look forward to real connections and optimized value from the technology,” he said.
Microsoft has taken after other companies like Spatial in offering 3D virtual collaboration environments and hopes to accelerate the technology’s adoption. The tech giant hopes to leverage on an early interest in mixed reality to step up its efforts. As other leading tech firms join this band-wagon, workspaces will witness advances in extended reality adoption.
Microsoft could also leverage Mesh’s potential in its productivity apps like Dynamics 365 and Teams. Anshel Sag, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, expects Microsoft to use its apps to demonstrate the platform’s capabilities. “XR adoption in existing tools can enhance currently available 2D experiences. Users can present their work in person and enjoy real connections as they collaborate on different projects,” he said.
When employees don a HoloLens 2 headset then join a virtual meeting room, they can experience each other’s presence. Microsoft’s vision for mixed reality is to make virtual meetings as authentic as possible. “With Mesh, you can feel like you’re sharing the same room with a colleague sharing content,” Microsoft’s Alex Kipman explains. “You could also teleport using mixed reality-enabled devices.”
During the technology’s unveiling, Kipman showed up in a presentation hosted in Mesh via Altspace VR. Kipman oversees Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed reality platform and hopes that users will start appreciating the benefits of Mesh once they create integrations with Teams and other collaborative apps.
“In today’s hybrid work environment, Mesh lets you collaborate as if you’re in the same location with your colleagues. Organizations may no longer need to tie their headquarters to a single physical location.” Kipman said. During his presentation, Kipman previewed Mesh partnerships with OceanX, Pokemon GO maker, and filmmaker James Cameron.
Multiple Industry Applications
Mesh delivers a far more immersive experience compared to the currently available collaboration tools. Organizations can create mixed reality gatherings and place employees from across the globe in the same room. Mesh doesn’t simply stop at holding virtual meetings. Microsoft has built the app on Azure and hopes that designers, engineers, and architects can buy into it. The app allows users to work on 3D physical models virtually and make progress on their projects.
Mesh will adopt much of the cloud’s model in terms of handling its technical aspects. Developers will be able to design immersive multiuser apps without fussing about complex technical issues. Eric Weast from ECW Networks & IT Solutions believes that healthcare, technology, and engineering companies can exploit this explosive technology.
Ilan Srendi from Palindrome Consulting feels that service providers can use Microsoft Mesh as a double-edged sword. The app promises to impact remote only-service providers with its cloud capability.
Bottlenecks to Adoption
The cost of VR headsets and HoloLens devices can become a stumbling block in Mesh’s adoption rates. 2D screens may not offer the impressive features expected from using a headset. While AR experiences on mobile phones are possible, users often prefer headsets for their magical capabilities. Other software and hardware developers may also read from different scripts, especially when it comes to preferred standards.
With solid developer support and a brilliant marketing strategy, Microsoft can give Mesh the momentum it needs to hit the ground running. So far, businesses and consumers have shown modest interest in the strides taken in augmented and virtual reality. Many setups need costly hardware that may not configure seamlessly, putting off interest from key market players. However, major tech companies continue to step up their efforts in a bid to achieve their dreams.
What does the future hold?
Carl Fransen from CTECH Consulting Group believes that products begin from a dream. “Microsoft allows innovators engineer a better future in the augmented reality space,” he said. ChaceTech LLC’s Ferrell Fuller thinks that Microsoft’s Mesh could be the answer to the disruptions in person-to-person socializing. “Microsoft can help us keep our person-to-person social skills with this technology,” Fuller believes.
In a world adjusting realities of remote work, Microsoft Mesh could quickly become the next big thing in virtual reality. At least Microsoft hopes so. Virtual concerts have demonstrated how Microsoft Mesh can transform virtual reality. The app’s adoption in workplaces will now depend on how Microsoft endears itself to businesses keen on embracing new virtual working alternatives amid the global pandemic. Contact us to learn more.