Microsoft has announced the general availability of Microsoft Mesh integration within Microsoft Teams. This new feature provides organizations with the capability to host online meetings in virtual environments, utilizing 3D avatars as representations of participants. The introduction of Mesh is expected to bring a more face-to-face interaction experience during digital meetings. Testimonials from early adopters such as Accenture, BP, Takeda, and Mercy Ships highlight the benefits of these immersive spaces in connecting teams and curbing travel expenses for large group collaborations.
Creating Custom Environments
Mesh in Teams has been in preview since September and enhances collaboration by incorporating spatial audio, which facilitates conversations akin to in-person brainstorming sessions. Organizations are given the option to either use the pre-designed immersive spaces included with Microsoft Mesh or create their own using the Mesh Toolkit, which integrates with the Unity 3D development platform. For those without coding expertise, Microsoft also introduces a no-code editor, enabling easy customization of these virtual environments with elements like logos or video feeds. Microsoft encourages creators with intermediate to advanced Unity skills to design experiences within Mesh and has made provisions for saving these designs as reusable templates.
Access and Trials for Users
Users looking to access immersive spaces can do so through the View menu in Teams, although downloading the Mesh app is necessary. Microsoft has specified that the Mesh app is available for PC via the Microsoft Store and will be available for Meta Quest devices through the App Lab. Organizations aiming to utilize Mesh for commercial purposes will require Teams Premium licensing.
Microsoft has taken measures to include anti-impersonation safeguards in Mesh for Teams to maintain the integrity of virtual interactions. Users can currently trial Microsoft Mesh for a six-month period. The trial, which includes the no-code editor, Mesh toolkit, and the ability to host larger meetings, is accessible via Microsoft Mesh's homepage or through the Microsoft 365 Admin Center.
Microsoft's roadmap indicates that Mesh will be useable on PCs in a 2D format from the following year. For a full 3D experience, users will have to utilize VR headsets. Compatibility with Meta Quest VR devices is planned for 2025. However, Mesh does not currently support HoloLens 2 devices, despite being part of Microsoft's mixed-reality portfolio.
Guidance for IT Professionals
For IT professionals looking to implement these new capabilities, Microsoft has released comprehensive documentation on enabling immersive spaces, which requires a Teams Premium license. Furthermore, Microsoft is offering a six-month free trial of custom Mesh experiences, inclusive of the no-code editor, Mesh toolkit, and capabilities for larger meetings.
Microsoft Mesh was showcased during the 2021 Ignite event but faced a rocky path to commercial release. With various cutbacks in mixed or augmented reality projects in 2023, including open-sourcing the Microsoft Mixed Reality Toolkit and discontinuing the Azure Kinect camera sensor, there have been significant shifts in Microsoft's reality offerings. Despite these changes, Microsoft affirmed its commitment to advancing HoloLens 2, Microsoft Mesh, and its industrial metaverse initiatives.