Microsoft Enters the 'Metaverse' Race, Won't Let Meta Have A Free Run
If Mark Zuckerberg was ever under the impression that his company would be runaway leaders in building the metaverse, then he is in for a surprise. Just days after Facebook changed its name to Meta, software giant Microsoft has unveiled its vision of the metaverse, apart from the host of other new offerings at its Ignite Conference.
Coined by Neal Stephenson in his fictional book, Snow Crash, the word metaverse has been in the news with Facebook, which was making the first public move towards building it. Apart from plans to hire more staff, the company has rebranded itself to reflect its main aim. On his part, Stephenson has clarified that he isn't contributing to Meta's vision. So, while Zuckerberg-led Meta is banking on its Oculus headsets to connect us to this new virtual realm, Microsoft has said that its own metaverse will be accessible to anybody on any device as early as 2022.
Microsoft's move into this space has already begun. As people looked for ways to counter the online meeting fatigue last year, Microsoft introduced the 'Together Mode' on its organizational software, Teams that brought people into a 'virtual space' and allowed them to interact. Taking this a step further will be "Mesh" for Teams that will allow people in different physical locations to meet and interact with shared holographic experiences.
If this still sounds like science fiction to you, Microsoft revealed that it built such a virtual space for Accenture before the pandemic which the company was able to use to onboard new employees, take them through initial training, and even assign their first projects all within the virtual space.
Mesh, expected to be rolled out in the first half of 2022, will start off with standard virtual space for meetings or social gatherings but going forward teams would be able to design their own spaces with tools that they would need to make their meetings more productive.
Another feature that Microsoft plans to roll out is the 3D avatar allowing individuals to be present for a discussion or a meeting without actually putting the camera on. Microsoft plans to use artificial intelligence that can mimic facial expressions or provide live translations to help people communicate better during these meetings.
Although the immersive experience of the meeting in a virtual space can be enhanced with the use of a VR headset, Mesh will also remain accessible to those using other devices like a laptop or smartphone as well.
An added advantage of Microsoft's vision of the metaverse is the availability of a suite of productivity tools like Office 365 or those powered by Microsoft's Azure cloud services.
Microsoft may have lost out on building a social media platform but it is prepared to get its bearings right in the race to build the metaverse.
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