In an upcoming 2022 version of its Mesh for Teams software, Microsoft will use audio signals to animate avatars. This will allow employees to represent themselves as avatars in meetings.
Mesh for Teams is a virtual reality collaborative work tool. With it, remote users are able to meet in a 3D environment. In the next version of Mesh, the Microsoft team has decided to add avatars. Thus, users will be able to appear as a 3D representation of themselves. The new features are expected to be launched as a preview of the software in the first half of 2022.
“Sometimes I just want to be able to sit in my chair and have my heating pad. But that might not be so appropriate,” said Katie Kelly, a senior project manager at Microsoft working on Mesh for Teams. “I wish I could activate my avatar. I’m present and engaged in the meeting. And the people who are there really feel like I am present and engaged.”
Mesh for Teams’ 3D avatars, a step toward creating the metaverse
Meetings can display a custom avatar, live video, a static image or a bubble with initials. The system will add animation and expressiveness to audio-based avatars in the initial release. But “the ambition is to follow this closely with Microsoft’s plethora of AI technologies. The goal is to use the camera to locate where your mouth is, mimic your head and facial movements,” Kelly said.
The avatar system on Mesh for Teams bears a strong resemblance to how Meta’s Horizon Workrooms system connects headsets and flat panel displays. Last year, Apple acquired startup Spaces, which came up with a similar solution for remote work.