Microsoft Mesh promises mixed reality revolution for collaboration 1

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Microsoft Mesh ‘is why we’ve been so passionate about mixed reality as the next big medium for collaborative computing. It’s magical when two people see the same hologram’

Quick read

➨ Known as Microsoft Mesh, the software platform, built on Azure, will enable users to join holographic worlds as projections
➨ Two apps built so far on the platform are the Microsoft Mesh app for HoloLens for remote collaboration and a new version of Mesh-enabled AltspaceVR
➨ The platform’s open standards will give developers the freedom to build solutions that will work across many different devices

The story

Microsoft is preparing to launch a ‘holoportation’ mixed reality software platform called Microsoft Mesh that will allow users to communicate and collaborate remotely.

Microsoft Mesh, built on Azure, will enable users to join holographic worlds as projections. Crucially, Microsoft intends to make the platform compatible with a variety of devices and modalities, including HoloLens, virtual reality headsets and mobile devices.

Two apps built so far on the platform are the Microsoft Mesh app for HoloLens for remote collaboration and a new version of Mesh-enabled AltspaceVR.

These apps are indicative of the early use cases that Microsoft wants to cover with mixed reality ‘holoportation’—communication and collaboration, so that teams can remain productive, perhaps even more so, when separated geographically or working remotely.

Microsoft technical fellow Alex Kipman, who demonstrated Microsoft Mesh by appearing as a holographic projection at Ignite digital conference earlier today, says: “This is why we’ve been so passionate about mixed reality as the next big medium for collaborative computing. It’s magical when two people see the same hologram.”

One example Microsoft showcased today was OceanX, which is creating a Mesh-enabled ‘holographic laboratory’ on the OceanXplorer research and deep sea exploration vessel.

OceanX and Microsoft envision scientists being able to gather in this laboratory, either in person or virtually, to see 3D holograms of the areas OceanXplorer’s deep sea vehicles are exploring.

Microsoft expects customers to be able to choose from a growing list of Microsoft Mesh-enabled apps built by external developers and partners, and also to benefit from planned integration with its own products, including Teams and Dynamics 365.

Microsoft Mesh promises mixed reality revolution for collaboration 2
OceanX is creating a Mesh-enabled ‘holographic laboratory’ on the OceanXplorer research and deep sea exploration vessel

‘Usher in a new medium for computing’

The platform’s open standards will also give developers the freedom to build solutions that will work across many different devices, which could potentially do wonders for enterprise take-up in particular.

Without official numbers from Microsoft on the number of HoloLens 2 units sold, it’s impossible to say with any certainty how widely used that mixed reality headset is.

But making Microsoft Mesh compatible with a range of virtual reality headsets, smartphones, tablets and PCs renders that problem irrelevant and opens up the possibility of taking mixed reality, at least for communication and collaboration, mainstream.

Microsoft is eying social media as the most fertile consumer ground for Mesh, and design, engineering, healthcare, construction and more for enterprise.

The company says years of research and development, in areas ranging from hand and eye tracking to HoloLens, have gone into creating the persistent holograms and artificial intelligence (AI) models that can create the expressive avatars found in Mesh.

Microsoft Mesh also benefits from Azure’s enterprise-grade security and privacy features, as well as its computational resources, data, AI and mixed reality services.

Kipman says: “More and more we are building value in our intelligent cloud, which is Azure. In these collaborative experiences, the content is not inside my device or inside my application. The holographic content is in the cloud, and I just need the special lenses that allow me to see it.”

Microsoft is seeking developers to begin working with the Mesh software development kit, to create the kind of ecosystem that will lead to widespread use.

Kipman says: “When you think about what it actually takes to usher in a new medium for computing, you have to make deep investments across the ecosystem, which is really what Microsoft has done.”

“Now we invite people to go create value on top of that and benefit from the years of really hard R&D we’ve done to offer them these features in a turnkey way.”

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Images: Microsoft

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