Microsoft will bring Mesh avatars and virtual environments to Teams

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Microsoft Teams users will soon be able to create their own animated avatars to meet with colleagues in virtual 3D environments, thanks to an upcoming integration of the company’s mixed reality platform, Mesh.

Mesh, unveiled by Microsoft earlier this year, provides tools for developing virtual 2D and 3D environments for collaboration and communication. To date, efforts have included the creation of a dedicated Mesh collaboration app for users of Microsoft’s VR headset HoloLens, as well as the integration of Mesh features – such as avatars – with AltSpaceVR, its social VR software. (Both are currently in preview.)

On Ignite, Microsoft discussed plans to integrate the mixed reality platform into Teams, its video conferencing and chat application that has 250 million users worldwide.

What is Mesh for Teams?

Basically, integration provides an alternative way for colleagues to meet through Teams that go beyond routine voice and video conferencing.

Individuals create personal 3D avatars to represent themselves in the virtual environment and then interact with other participants’ avatars or by using the traditional Teams video meeting grid views. In order to appear more lifelike, the avatar can mimic user movements, where the avatar’s animated mouth moves in response to sound signals when the user e.g. speaker.

The avatars will interact in a set of pre-built “immersive spaces” to replicate meeting rooms or social mixers, for example, Microsoft said. This could enable a product team to create a virtual space with a whiteboard for brainstorming and 3D design prototypes displayed on a table. A VR headset is not required: Mesh for Teams is also available via smartphone and laptop, Microsoft said.

The mesh feature will begin rolling out to Teams users in preview during the first half of 2022, Microsoft said. The price has not yet been announced.

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