Virtual meetings are headed in a new direction in which work teams from different geographical locations can collaborate on projects involving 3D content using mixed reality (MR) devices such as HoloLens. Microsoft’s new meeting space, Mesh, is the first notable step in the direction.
Mixed reality headsets work by overlaying a virtual world or object over a physical world or object.
Microsoft Mesh is a cloud-based mixed reality meeting room, which will allow people from remote locations to be a part of a shared holographic experience using mixed reality devices such as Holo Lens. Microsoft plans to integrate the platform with its other enterprise products including Teams and Dynamics 365.
“This has been the dream for mixed reality, the idea from the very beginning,” said Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman during the Ignite conference where the platform was announced.
Initially, participants in Mesh meeting rooms will be represented by their virtual avatars. Microsoft plans to incorporate holoportation in due course, allowing participants to project their lifelike, photorealistic selves in the meetings.
“These experiences were always on the cards as the natural evolution of technology. Microsoft has been an early entrant into space and now they are capitalizing on the use case and application that has hit an inflection point last year due to work from home,” said Jayanth Kolla, founder and partner, Convergence Catalyst, a Bengaluru based technology research firm.
In addition to facilitating more collaborative meetings and social meet-ups, Microsoft Mesh can come in handy for designers, engineers, architects, or medical researchers working on 3D physical models. It would allow them to appear as themselves in a shared virtual space and iterate on holographic models projected within it.
Microsoft Mesh isn’t the only online platform that is looking to leverage MR to make virtual meeting rooms more interactive and realistic. Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio has got an MR device called Jio Glass through which they plan to offer experiences on similar lines, albeit with limited applications.
During the Jio Glass demo at the company’s 43rd AGM in 2020, company executives showed how Jio Glass could be used to make virtual 3D calls where the participants can join as a 3D avatar and collaborate on a project in virtual meeting rooms. The platform can also be used in virtual classrooms to learn from holographic images.
With virtual meetings becoming the norm, experts feel there is a lot of growth potential for MR-based online platforms for work. However, large-scale adoption is not happening anytime soon, except in niche segments, considering the cost involved in acquiring MR headsets. A HoloLens 2 unit alone costs $3,500.