Persistent spaces in the Metaverse

Just like in the real world today, we will see persistent rooms in the Metaverse. Since there isn’t much details out about Microsoft Mesh for Teams it will be remain a slight question mark how meeting spaces will be there: will they be short lived or also persistent.

Comparing to Teams meetings today they could be both: the space might exists as long as the meeting does and the way to join the room is to open the meeting. As we know about Teams meetings today: as long as the meeting is joined now and then it will be stay there, and meeting can have resources connected to it like Whiteboard or apps via tabs. When you click on the Whiteboard tab in a meeting the Whiteboard gets created and connected to the meeting. This will be very likely (my guess) the way Mesh spaces tied to a meeting will be created and formed: once you click open or add an immersive part to the meeting the space gets created and connected.

In time we will very likely have a way to join spaces and rooms that are persistent (on comparison – think a team in Teams or SharePoint site) and not tied to the meeting itself. Yes, I do have to speculate here and do a bit of guessing how Microsoft will develop this. Teams won’t be the only way to use Mesh – let’s not forget that Microsoft Mesh can be used without Teams at all in HoloLens 2 already today.

Thinking how HoloLens 2 Mesh Preview App works, you can create a space and join that space with others any time. The space itself is already persistent and contains the information you “left” there in the previous visit. Mesh space doesn’t really need a meeting itself but adding a space to the meeting makes it easy to gather people to Teams meeting first before switching to the immersive side. Eventually we will be able to drop directly into spaces via links or portals.

Persistent spaces might be tied to a team to control access or be public in the company. We might see a several inside organization public spaces in a single organization, like coffee or break rooms, auditoriums, training rooms, game rooms, innovation, meeting and meditation spaces, onboarding and of course virtual offices. Looking the future these spaces would form up the organization persistent metaverse where people can drop in for town halls, trainings, have some fun and of course work together. Since metaverse doesn’t have to honor laws of physics there can be very imaginative spaces and not all of them have to be in a single large area. These are just like public teams and sites today – bringing people and ideas together where they can innovate and co-create as well as access company resources.

Persistent Spaces extend the persistency that is already present all the time in Microsoft Teams through teams, channels, meetings and chats, Microsoft Loop and everywhere in the Microsoft Cloud. Persistency and being able to work synchronously and asynchronously is the key tech needed to success in the Hybrid World and work.

There will be also spaces restricted to some people inside the organization. Project rooms, situation / “war” rooms, steering groups and other spaces used by different teams or units. This is what makes the metaverse useful for leading with data and seeing the big picture: by brining in information, presentations, documents and real-time data with the opportunity to collaborate together and enabling the use applications that can be used to add tasks, initiate processes and to manipulate reality. With the last part I don’t mean changing laws of physics, but synchronizing changes from digital twins to real devices via Azure. For example using a prediction model to fine-tune the process settings and when it is ready the model is synchronized to devices, valves and to automated systems in the real factory. Or it could be a model how cargo is loaded to the ship and these instructions and order information is relayed to the loading crew.

We have virtual situation rooms already, but information is usually in a team, channels, tabs, PowerBI reports, meetings, SharePoint pages and sites and so on. We will click around or open lots of browsers and open applications to see the big picture, and most of people don’t have three large monitors in their use. Creating this space in an immersive space enables to put in the information to one room (remember: you don’t have to worry about laws of physics). Ability to create a large virtual space, perhaps with multiple rooms or levels if needed, can get decision makers and analysists access to all relevant information in virtual reality. They can form small groups and talk about numbers or compare history to the predict model in front of one screen while other group is planning next steps by the Whiteboard. And these people could be joining the same metaverse space from different offices or countries.

The next aspect is that portions of information might be visible only to some people – honoring the security of Microsoft 365. Some of these rooms might be even in the public, but not everyone could see or access the data because permissions determine if you have access to something or not. Team room might be public, and that would allow anyone to drop in to ask the team for something – but they might not have access to team’s private content – or to their private meeting room. The relevance to real life here would be that somebody walks to HR area and sees if anyone would be available for conversation at the moment. But they would not see any private HR data – only public ones that are on walls.

Being able to collect information to a persistent space is a big thing, but it is not everything. Adding collaborative aspect: conversations and applications to the space makes a big difference: immersive meetings are not just for conversation but also will be able to co-create content together. Whiteboard will be the key application here: people can talk next to the whiteboard and share ideas, put them to the board and when more people join the space they can join the conversation and see what’s on the Whiteboard. Just like someone would walk into the meeting room in real life. Using collaborative apps alongside when bringing information to the space is essential for metaverse to be productive. We don’t want to talk first and create later: it is not the way in the future. Taking a jump from mere collaboration to actually adjusting devices in the reality (via digital twins synchronizing) is also something to think: engineers can have a conversation and change the model, run prediction analysis and then apply changes to the reality. Some of this might manifest as real world user interface in the metaverse, to make it familiar and easy for people – instead of opening an application where you set values.

For onboarding and recruiting purposes persistent spaces can include videos, bot-instructors (avatars or holo persons) who can guide people forward and work as never-tiring and 24/7 present teachers or guides. Onboarding might require more complex scenarios, like fire or first-aid drills. I have had also interesting talks with people, who have been creating different real world certifications using simulations in metaverse. While these are not part of persistent spaces story, it is something that would be accesses from virtual onboarding facilities.

The more I learn about the Metaverse and think the big picture, the more I am realizing how we are limited only by our own imagination. The possibilities are truly endless, but we have to imagine them first. This means businesses must think outside the box and start planning business processes and models that they will realize with the metaverse.

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