The ongoing effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic has brought us a slurry of pros and cons when it comes to work. While people are generally happy to have more autonomy in their lives with remote work becoming a norm, a return to a more hybridized model seems to be the leader for many large corporations as we shift to this new normal.
This hybrid model tends to be described as one that involves employees coming into an office space a few days a week, but largely allows individuals to continue working in ways that best enmesh into their every day lives. Some folx are desperate for a return to the office and time with their peers, while others would be fine to never see another coworker in person again so long as their work and business objectives are completed.
Microsoft has sought to blend these perspectives by introducing Mesh for Microsoft Teams – a feature combining the mixed-reality capabilities of Microsoft Mesh allowing individuals across countries and continents to join and share in collaborative, holographic experiences.
What is Mesh for Teams?
Imagine a virtual meeting with a global team. In the past, if your design team in Japan needed to connect with your sales team in the US or your technical team in India, you’d set up a call that worked across time zones and make it work.
While you’ll still have to do some cross time-zone coordination, what Microsoft has set to roll out in 2022 with Mesh transforms these experiences. The video, chat, and document collaboration capabilities of Teams stay intact, but your design team in Japan can check in with your sales team in the United States before aligning priorities with your technical team in India all in one holographic team meeting, in which everyone can show up as themselves, or a virtual avatar.
From smartphones and laptops to mixed reality headsets, Mesh for Teams is designed to make meetings more fun and enjoyable while introducing users to the metaverse – a persistent digital world inhabited by digital twins of people, places, and things. It’s a new vision of the internet for people to gather, collaborate and share their own personal virtual presence on any device.
Most users will first tap into Mesh for Teams by joining meetings as customized avatars of themselves. Organizations can also build spaces for their workers to interact. These spaces are also called metaverses. Mesh for Teams will take these avatars and place them into spaces to mix, mingle, collaborate, and experience the types of serendipitous encounters we’re missing in our new reality of remote work.
Here is What Mesh Could Mean for You
The Nth Floor
- The Nth Floor is a space created by Accenture in Mesh. A company of 600,000+, Accenture was searching for a way for their globally distributed workforce to connect and communicate. The Nth floor, and what would eventually become One Accenture Park – were virtual spaces that allowed for these connections to come about organically.
- One particular use case was onboarding. Accenture brings on more than 100,000 people per year, and the traditional new hire cohort process shifted online. Now, new hires meet on Teams where they are given instructions to create their own digital avatar and access One Accenture Park – a futuristic amusement park-like space complete with a central conference room, a virtual boardroom and monorails leading new hires to the different exhibits of their onboarding process.
A Broader Spectrum of Engagement
- Mesh for Teams will come out of the box with a set of pre-built immersive spaces for a variety of contexts from meetings to social events and mixers. Over time, Microsoft sees this as a space where firms can build their own spaces as well. These different spaces allow for different contexts of engagement.
Better Meetings (Across Any Devices)
- Research has shown that while people feel more present and engaged during online meetings when their video is on, we’ve also seen that people have a multitude of reasons to not be on video – from multitasking to video fatigue to slow internet connections.
- With Mesh, people will be able to create digital avatars that can appear on screen and in different virtual locations for meetings and events. Kind of like a best of both worlds.
A Gateway to the Metaverse
- This is likely to be just the beginning of our forays into Microsoft’s piece of the Metaverse. While the focus on productivity has been at the heart of the company for years, the foray into Mixed Reality has been part of the company’s long-term vision for the past twelve years as they’ve sought to create technology that can seamlessly connect us to one another through the Virtual World.
- Mesh for Teams will be many people’s first time walking into the metaverse! Hopefully it’ll help us solve some of the issues that have been wrought by the pandemic, allowing people to feel more connected and supported in our new reality of remote work in our live pandemic world.
The Future with Mesh
Ultimately, only time will tell how the metaverse will impact our overall experience as part of the workforce. Microsoft’s willingness to invest in the space for the last decade plus bodes well for consumers tepid to tiptoe into the metaverse though, and the idea of this space will continue growing well into the future.
While the future depicted in Ready Player One might not be tomorrow’s future, a virtual space like the Oasis is coming. Microsoft’s forays into the Metaverse for the last decade-plus bode well for their place as a maven of office productivity. It’s up to us now to dive in and see how these new tools can help positively impact our experience while continuing to let them know how they can still improve.