Microsoft is entering the race to build a metaverse inside Teams, just days after Facebook rebranded to Meta in a push to build virtual spaces for both consumers and businesses. Microsoft is bringing Mesh, a collaborative platform for virtual experiences, directly into Microsoft Teams next year. It’s part of a big effort to combine the company’s mixed reality and HoloLens work with meetings and video calls that anyone can participate in thanks to animated avatars.
With today’s announcement, Microsoft and Meta seem to be on a collision course to compete heavily in the metaverse, particularly for the future of work.
Microsoft Mesh always felt like the future of Microsoft Teams meetings, and now it’s starting to come to life in the first half of 2022. Microsoft is building on efforts like Together Mode and other experiments for making meetings more interactive, after months of people working from home and adjusting to hybrid work.
“We got hit by meeting fatigue in the virtual world,” explains Nicole Herskowitz, general manager for Microsoft Teams, in an interview with The Verge. “After 30 or 40 minutes max in a meeting, it was very hard to stay engaged and focused.” That initial meeting fatigue led to Together Mode, and now Microsoft hopes Mesh will further help reduce the cognitive overload of having to be on video calls all day long.
Microsoft Teams will get new 3D avatars in a push toward a metaverse environment, and you won’t need to put a VR headset on to use them. These avatars can literally represent you both in 2D and 3D meetings, so you can choose to have an animated version of yourself if you’re not feeling like turning your webcam on.