Metaverse Teams: Microsoft Enters the Race to Build a Virtual Reality

Microsoft is on a mission to bring staff closer together with its own metaverse, which should be ready for users by 2022.
Aaron Drapkin

Microsoft has officially announced that it will be building its own metaverse. The news comes just days after Facebook announced plans to do the same. So who will be the first to the metaverse?

The project, called “Mesh,” will be rolled out inside Microsoft Teams and is scheduled to be available for users at some point next year.

It’s been a week of ups and downs for the tech giant, who overtook Apple to become the most valuable company in the world last Friday, yet were hit with more security issues affecting Microsoft mailbox owners. 

Why is Microsoft Going Meta?

In an announcement published this week, Microsoft seemed to imply it was motivated to build its own metaverse by two trends: “Remote workers are far more efficient than most business leaders ever imagined, and they miss each other.”

“We got hit by meeting fatigue in the virtual world,” Nicole Herskowitz, general manager for Microsoft Teams, told The Verge. “After 30 or 40 minutes max in a meeting, it was very hard to stay engaged and focused.” 

Microsoft sees this as a one-stop-shop solution, and it’s not just about the economic or business benefits that a metaverse could bring; it’s also about having fun. The announcement suggests, quite optimistically, that every channel in Microsoft Teams will have its own virtual space for staff to hang out in whilst they work remotely. 

What’s Mesh Going to Include?

Microsoft said in an announcement this week that Mesh “combines the mixed-reality capabilities of Microsoft Mesh, which allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences, with the productivity tools of Microsoft Teams, where people can join virtual meetings, send chats, collaborate on shared documents and more.”

The metaverse will build on Microsoft’s previous attempts to create a more engaging and interactive online environment for people working during lockdown. “Together Mode,” for instance, already utilizes AI to create an avatar so users could digitally exist together in virtual reality. 

“We’ve seen that those tools have accomplished both goals of helping a team be more effective and also helping individuals be more engaged.”- Jeff Teper, Microsoft Corporate Vice President. 

Microsoft says that building a 3D avatar with Mesh will be amongst the first steps that users will take, and then they’ll be able to design and render virtual environments that these avatars can interact in. The tech giant also confirmed there would be pre-set spaces that avatars could interact in. 

Does your business need Microsoft Teams to get Mesh?

Mesh? Yes. Metaverse? Definitely not. Microsoft’s announcement comes just days after Facebook’s own proclamations that it's planning on doing something very similar. It’s unlikely these will be the only two companies trying to muscle their way into this space, which seems very much like the “next frontier” of the internet. So, it’s unlikely it’ll be just Teams users who have the chance to experience this new, digital reality.

However, if your staff are still working from home and you’re finding productivity is slipping and employees aren’t engaging with work as much, Microsoft Teams can seriously help. It’s a much more all-encompassing solution than a web conferencing software application like Zoom, so if you’re relying on the latter to keep staff morale high, you might want to reconsider. 

The pace that all things internet-related seem to develop is often frightening — and the metaverse is no different. Two of the world's most recognizable companies have jumped into the fray, which means one thing: the arms race to design a digital reality that will change our lives forever has only just begun.

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Aaron Drapkin is a Senior Writer at Tech.co. He has been researching and writing about technology, politics, and society in print and online publications since graduating with a Philosophy degree from the University of Bristol three years ago. As a writer, Aaron takes a special interest in VPNs and project management software. He has been quoted in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Daily Mail, Computer Weekly, and the Silicon Republic speaking on various privacy and cybersecurity issues, and has articles published in Wired, Vice, Metro, The Week, and Politics.co.uk covering a wide range of topics.

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