At the Microsoft Ignite we saw – no, we participated – in a keynote in Virtual Reality. You were able to participate using a VR headset or your computer using an app but also you were able to view it “normally” as a broadcast. That keynote and subsequent Microsoft Ignite sessions let us know about Microsoft Mesh – a Virtual Reality Platform that will be used and utilized in various ways in the near future.
Did the dancing / rave party on the beach see far fetched? I thought so first, but eventually when taking a look at information available I have started to look very differently about that. Read on.
We do lots of meetings using Microsoft Teams. The awesome Together Mode where we are more close with each other, we can share content easily and collaborate & innovate together. Dynamic Views, Presenter Mode / Standout, Breakout Rooms, applications in meetings, polls and so on. And this is all super – but ..
What about if you want to mingle with others in a way we would do in a real in-person event?
Let’s think about the Virtual Reality Event and Microsoft Teams as Teams was in the title – but at this point I have to admit the title is a click-bait and no, there is no Teams VR connector out yet but with Microsoft Mesh & Microsoft Cloud MR/VR services … I don’t think it is going to take that long when we can test/pilot it out!
What it would mean in reality to have a..
Company or Customer Meeting in Virtual Reality
- We can share the Virtual Space – no matter where we are from we are there together ( ✅ )
- Holoprojection / avatar of ourselves that can be customized (✅ – in rough level)
- Embed content into it ( ✅ – limited, but possible)
- Use our corporate identity ( ✅ – you can sign into AltSpace VR with AAD identity)
- People don’t need headset to join ( ✅ – not everyone has one or can use one – but everyone is welcome)
- People can gather into small groups spontaneously and brainstorm on ideas freely (✅)
- Can see who are in those rooms ( ✅ )
- Play music and move around freely ( ✅ )
- Move our hands and body (✅ if you have a headset you can move your head and hands – body movements are limited)
- Edit the world / Virtual Space (✅)
- Join using mobile devices (❌but Microsoft Mesh is bringing that option in)
- View Microsoft 365 documents and content together securely in the Virtual World (❌- nope, but we don’t have Microsoft Mesh out yet.. unless you are using HoloLens 2 then this is a limited ✅..)
- You can participate that meeting directly from within Microsoft Teams (❓❌ – But I am envisioning that Microsoft Mesh will make this possible as well ).
AltSpace VR is nothing new (launched it’s first version 2015) and it has been owned by Microsoft since 2017..
Of course there are limits in the current version – especially if you are using your PC without a headset to join in. Just like I did today and during the Microsoft Ignite keynote. With some clever thinking you can bypass some limits it has. Like taking pictures of PowerPoint presentation pages and present them using the viewscreen in Virtual Space. And can show a video for example. And you can stand in front of the audience presenting – facing them “the crowd”!
Haven’t we all , as presenters, missed that?
You are all welcome to hi to my Virtual Reality AltSpace VR avatar! It doesn’t look at all like me ( I don’t usually wear a tie) – but I think it is kind of Teams-coolish. The hat is there – which is important. Some of my colleagues had tuned their avatars to amazingly look like them! It was possible to recognize people by just looking around (of course virtual name tags do help!).
Besides tweaking our avatars (which didn’t take long on my part) what else we can do “out there” is amazing in other aspects
- Feeling the presence of co-workers or other community members there. We can see their names and sometimes recognize them by their avatar looks.
- Hearing the chatter. When we move around we can hear people talking to each other.
- Join any group ad hoc and talk to others. And we don’t have to worry about keeping the distance of 2 meters.
- It can be very spontaneous way how people gather together on some topic and talk about it. You can see if some topics generate more interest – people are found there just like in real life
- The presenter can speak out louder than others and everyone can hear the voice loud and clear. Even from the back row. (just like in Teams – everyone has the front row seats there)
- Having fun with other activities like tossing a paper balls to basket. Without interrupting anything.
- Seeing what others do and where they are – perhaps you want to join in with others once you see that?
- Did I already mention that you can present in front of the audience? Yes, I think – but it is worth mentioning again!
And the thing.. after the initial presentation
It was spontaneous – just like in the real conference when people get out of the session and form small groups together while talking about the ideas what they just had. Teams meetings don’t do that very often because people are busy and sometimes are just a bit afraid to talk aloud to everyone. In the AltSpace VR what you say carries to the close vicinity – like you would be in a Breakout Room in Microsoft Teams.
Surely there is the new tech and it has the enthusiastic feeling in it. One AltSpace VR doesn’t do it all – far from it – but even as it is now it offers great potential to have a different way to get together and create a event that benefits from the virtual presence. If you are using a headset I imagine it will be even more fun (yes, I really need to find one Oculus Quest 2 to test it out!) but naturally making notes requires more innovation. Or if you are using your PC then you can just type them to a OneNote..
The possibilities are quite endless – how about creating a office party in there? Music, atmosphere, some games, good keynotes and thoughtful presentations that give people something to talk about? Especially when we (still) can’t meet a lots of people in the office and the future is hybrid – there is no going back to 2019 anymore.
Microsoft Teams Meetings in Virtual Reality? We are not there yet but with Microsoft Mesh and other Microsoft Cloud services will be getting us there sooner than later.
Looking at Microsoft 365 there are interesting pieces already that is related to 3D or Mixed/Virtual Reality
- Power Apps with Mixed Reality components
- SharePoint Spaces
- HoloLens 2 and it’s applications in Dynamics 365
- Azure Mixed Reality (HoloLens 2 included) & mixed cloud services.
- Mixed Reality for Developers (HoloLens 2, Azure Kinect DK, Digital Twins, Spatial Anchors)
To me it looks like that adding Virtual Reality part to Microsoft Teams meetings is not far away when you start combining these technologies. Of course
if when you want to get started then the first step is to start talking with partners who can help you or join mixed reality developer program and learn yourself!
I see a lots of value in virtual presence – today’s company meeting in AltSpace VR amplified a lots of those ideas even more than the Ignite keynote did – but especially when we can join into the company meeting via Microsoft Teams – using a headset, PC, Table or Mobile phone – or even Microsoft Teams Room – then we are seeing this every day. Adding features like Whiteboards, dictation (remember those cool demos where Cortana is listening in Microsoft Teams meetings to capture tasks and notes) – and we already have transcription in rolling out to Teams meetings.. Then we can really talk about something new.
But you can get started already today. A single AltSpace VR space is limited to 50 people at the same time currently. But Microsoft Teams meetings can have 1000 attendees. Microsoft Mesh utilizes Microsoft Graph to connect and interact with various content inside and outside Microsoft Cloud – and I am looking forward for those possibilities. I am very excited to see how Microsoft Teams, Virtual Reality and real world combine and Microsoft Teams Meetings go to the new level with new possibilities. Yes – the future is hybrid in many levels.
That sounds and smells a lot like marketing vision, but when I was writing this article & reflecting the planning meeting experience it grew stronger and stronger. We are not there yet but with Microsoft Mesh and other Microsoft Cloud technologies that are available already now .. it can not be that far off either. I recall that in 2015-2016 I was envisioning that in 2020 we would have also meetings in Virtual Reality. I was off by one year.
PS. if you have HoloLens 2 then do test out the Microsoft Mesh application in it. You will be connected to your Microsoft 365 identity and can have already the experience that is connected to Microsoft 365.
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