Microsoft Ignite 2022 brought up a big number of various announcements, new tech and innovations. And we didn’t expect for anything less. This time, after some break, Microsoft Ignite also had on-site events. Unlike one huge 20000+ attendee event, this was a truly hybrid event that allowed people join and participate via online or in local events around the world. The main event is being held in Seattle, US and I know several friends who went there to enjoy the excitement and vibe. Myself, I am at in person in Microsoft Ignite UK Spotlight at Manchester. Focus on this blog post is to give you a view about what’s happening with Microsoft Mesh and Microsoft Teams. The biggest announcements from this week are Mesh for Meta Quest Devices, Microsoft Loop app and of course that the Mesh Avatars are finally in private preview!
- Microsoft Mesh for Teams to Meta Quest devices and Meta integration
- Mesh Avatars and Mesh for Teams
- Channels Reimagined
- Microsoft Teams
- Microsoft Teams Premium
- Microsoft Places
- Microsoft Loop application and other Loop updates
- Book of News and other sources
Microsoft Mesh for Teams to Meta Quest devices and Meta integration
In advance of Microsoft Ignite was Meta Connect on Tuesday 11th of October. A big surprise there was that Mesh for Teams and Microsoft 365 applications were announced for Meta Quest Devices. Especially to the new Meta Quest Pro, but also for Meta Quest 2. You will be able to join Microsoft Mesh immersive meetings using Meta headsets. I did not see a mention when this will become available, but I would assume during 2023. The announcement also gave a great sneak peek how Microsoft Mesh will look in immersive meetings. The image is showing the content and also non-immersive attendees in the same meeting. Avatars don’t have legs, but they do have arms.
And also a view for upcoming meetings was shared there. Looks like a good way to join meetings and see what’s happening. I assume the + on the left is a way to add new apps to the app.
Microsoft 365 applications are coming to Meta Quest devices also. They will be in 2D and interestingly also Teams is there – but in a normal mode.
And finally there were a picture how you could join a Teams meeting from Meta Horizon immersive spaces. It is unclear how this view would look for people attending via Teams.
In the same blog post Microsoft announced partnership with Meta. This is a good thing, since I can envision this leading to interoperability of these two companies Metaverse platforms. With their combined user and organization base they could take the lead and ways to form up the Metaverse connecting Consumer, Enterprise and Industrial metaverse areas.
Mesh Avatars and Mesh for Teams
I know people have mixed feelings about avatars. Why Microsoft is using resources for things like Avatars instead of working on Teams performance and Teams Version 2? One reason is the Presence, of which I wrote in my previous blog post , and the other is that Microsoft is working on Teams on various tracks – not just on one. Teams is evolving and improving on multiple ways at the same time. Competition makes that also necessary to keep on developing the service better and better, but also the hybrid and modern worklife pushes in more and more requirements that Teams must respond to. People have different kind of needs, and having that over 270+ million monthly users surely means there are lot of needs that are waiting to be answered.
Mesh Avatars are now in private preview. Some people are lucky and can use them inside their own organizations, but when a feature is in a private preview it also means that Microsoft is expecting bugs and issues to be found and fixed. Once the quality is in a good enough level, we can expect Mesh Avatars to be available via Public Preview.
Looking at Microsoft Ignite demos I am very excited about avatars in Teams. No, not because they would be something technologically breaking – they are not. They are however a good start, and think them as the minimum viable product version – they will improve over time. But the reason why I am excited is that a lot of people don’t have their camera on for various reasons – they might be eating, they could be on the move, perhaps they just woke up or just have a bad-hair day. However – some people can even feel anxiety or stress for having to turn camera on. In meetings we experience a lot of people with cameras off and this is when you are getting value from avatars.
Once the personalized avatar is created, it can be used in a Teams meeting by selecting the
option from the “Effects and Avatars” menu prior to joining the meeting. During a meeting,
users will be able to choose from a wide range of gestures to react to topics.
Avatars enable everyone has a presence in the meeting – without having to worry about the camera. You turn your avatar on, and then others can see it simulating you. When you speak, your avatar speaks. When you don’t do anything, avatar has idle animations. You can use various different reactions to express yourself. You can alter your mood and camera.
Mesh avatars will be making a difference in meetings. Instead of having those initials or static images, the avatar is live and seems to have an eye-contact with everyone. You always have a good lighting for your avatar, as well as sharp look.
Of course the Mesh Avatar Builder is the one where you create your digital twin. Not just one, but three. Creating an avatar and putting different outfits for different occasions is going to be the most often used scenario. Think about business/work outfit and then a more relaxed versions for team or off hours events. You can have also fun and wear clothes you could never use in the real world – or perhaps that will spark you to try out something new for yourself! In the avatar builder you can adjust your digital twin in various ways – hair, eyes, skin color and so on. You can have artificial arms or hands also.
There are also various clothing options . You can build a professional looking avatar or a more relaxed one. Personally I know myself: I will build a professional looking version that I will use in most of meetings, but also the relaxed MetaVesku who will wear a more brighter colored shirt or wearing a funny hat.
I am very excited to try out new Mesh Avatars and I do feel that they will help making meetings better and people will have more presence than without them. This does not mean you would stop using your camera – no, not at all. There are lot of meetings where I will have my camera on. We need the real us, the real come-as-you-are and professional look on cameras when avatars are there. The video is not going to go away, because there is much value it can give to meetings and also adding our personality. But avatars will open up new possibilities for people and situations when you don’t turn on your camera. The speaker have the camera on, but can enjoy the audience using their avatars. CEO can give a presentation in a townhall, but attendees (employees) have avatars on so CEO will feel the more natural presence of the audience.
Some quick Mesh Avatar facts as a recap
- In private preview globally
- Versatile avatar builder
- Reactions, mood settings and camera controls
- Idle animations
- Voice driven
In Nicole’s session were a nice short clip about how Mesh for Teams. How you can meet there, present content, work on the whiteboard and so on.
The big and welcome announcement was that channels in Teams are going to have a new version! With this update they will get a new fresh look and feel and will eventually replace the current channel experience. At this point these new channels are only available at the private preview and they are still work in progress.
For users the main changes / features will be
- Compose box and recent posts at the top of the page. This changes the traditional Teams low-posting to the way that most of social media does today. This makes channels in Teams much closer to Yammer / Viva Engage experience.
- Pin important posts
- Pop out channel conversation
- Refreshed information pane
- New kind of post types, like video-clip and refreshed announcements
- Customizable channel header
- Available to all channel types, including shared channels
Coming to private preview by end of the year.
This post is more about Teams, but you should keep in the mind how teams will benefit from all these upcoming features. There are lot of news about Microsoft Teams improvements to devices (IntelliFrame, Microsoft Presenter+ (I wants this one!) and so on), Teams Phone Mobile and to the platform itself. However let me just collect here some interesting ones that will help teams.
Rolling out now until the end of the year (some features to public preview and some to GA) for Teams chats
- Expanded reactions are finally coming to be available. Choosing a right reaction is going to be possible with this one. I only wish there would be a way to pin your favorite ones for quicker use.
- Add people to that chat with @mention, making adding relevant people easier than before. You can also @mention everyone ( @everyone).
- Delete chat: Using the delete chat functionality, users will be able to easily remove themselves from one-on-one or group chat conversations they no longer wish to participate in, without impacting other participants in the same chat conversation. Delete chat will be generally available in November.
- Video clips in chats. We have audio clips already on mobile, now you can communicate with video clips. I can see a lot of people who will do this one – especially the younger generation. Overall this is a great feature in the hybrid scenario, where you can leave messages to your colleague and yet give it more personal touch. This too is about presence.
- Scheduled sending of chat messages has been in the public preview already. Personally I don’t use this one much – only when I know the arrival time of the message would make it easier to be noticed. I rely on that people know how to use quiet hours and do not disturbs.
- Work hours and location – these are good to be reflected in the chat. You can use this info along with scheduled send to send messages to people so they arrive when they are working, but for me this is more about expectation – when I can expect that message to be read.
- Linked profile of external contacts – great to see more details of the person I chat with
- Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile, previously known as Operator Connect Mobile is now generally available.
Teams Cameo – you can use PowerPoint documents with Cameo in Teams PowerPoint Live. I have already used this one, since it has been on public preview since September. It was fun to embed your video, using different shapes, directly to the PowerPoint Live presentation. This can help you to make more captivating and engaging presentations.
Excel Live is also rolling to be generally available. You can share an Excel document to the meeting so that everyone in the meeting can edit the same document. We know that only some people will open document via the link you shared prior to the meeting or to the chat. With Excel live you all can edit the spreadsheet at the same time – and stay in the meeting context while doing it!
Teams meeting Together mode are getting capabilities from public preview to generally available. You can assign specific seats to specific people, making sure that the facilitator or CEO has the right seat in the Together mode. This also means that everyone can have the same view, if you so choose. For example if Chris wants to sit next to Adam in the virtual meeting room then you can make this happen. You can also push the same Together Mode scene for everyone.
Microsoft Teams Premium
This is a new add-on SKU (license) that enables features to make meetings more personalized, intelligent and secure. The public preview will be available at December, and you can try out these new features without a license during that time. When Teams Premium goes to Generally Available during February 2023 you need to purchase a license to be able to continue using Premium features. This is a big change for Teams, adding very useful features but you need to be able to have an add-on license to use them. We knew this day would come eventually.
Some features are very useful and you don’t need to license everyone to be able to use them. For example Advanced webinars are something that webinar organizers need – but the Premium license is not needed by webinar attendees. Watermarking for protecting documents is an another one.
Teams Premium features:
Intelligent recap : Personalized highlights from Teams meetings that help you discover information that matters to you most. AI can generate you tasks from live transcriptions for example.
Live Translations for Live Captions : Al powered real time translations for 40 spoken languages so users can read live captions in their own language (34 languages). This is a very useful feature you can already try out in public preview today!
Advanced webinars : New host controls (green room and manage what attendees will see) and event management controls that make it seamless to connect with any audience, deliver a high-quality experience to help you before and during your event. These include automated reminder emails, registration waitlist and more.
Meeting guides : Aka Meeting templates that a I have had several asks from people if this is possible. These are new IT/Admin created guides(templates) that allow end users to pick the type of meeting they need, and have all the settings automatically set
Custom branding : Add your company look with these. Branded lobby, custom org-wide backgrounds and custom Together Mode scenes
Advanced Virtual Appointments : Connect with clients in branded engagements that help you track business performance, manage queues, and help reduce no-shows with SMS reminders and wait-times.
Microsoft Places is a new app targeted for hybrid work. Microsoft Places will use intelligence to optimize where
work happens in hybrid work: connecting virtual and physical spaces together.
The Microsoft Places app is coming 2023.
- A dashboard view to see when people will be on the office
- Presence information about people’s physical location. At home / remote, at the office, on the road/mobile.
- See booked workspaces and book one nearby
- Insights and guidance about community time, ability to automatically schedule travel times
- Wayfinding and navigation to help within office location
- Modernized conference room booking
- Insights and guidance about hybrid policies and space usage
Microsoft Loop application and other Loop updates
Microsoft Loop app is in the private preview! Not much was told about this app yet, but it features workspace, pages and components. Finally!
- Inserting a poll, checklist or task list component into a Word for the web document under the Insert menu or with Editor using Context IQ. Type the “@” sign and based on the context of what is typed, Editor leveraging Context IQ surfaces the most relevant content to add (like a tasklist). This will be in private preview by the end of the year.
- Copying an existing Loop component and pasting it into Whiteboard in Teams, web and desktop. This will be generally available by the end of the year.
- The Polls component type powered by Microsoft Forms will enable users to create surveys, quizzes and word clouds that stay in sync across Outlook on the web and Word for the web. This will be in private preview by the end of the year.
- Q&A, a new Loop component type that will enable users to collect answers to questions in real-time. Q&A is currently in preview in Outlook on the web and will be generally available in November.
New security for Loop components will include:
- Sensitivity labels that will enable users to assign a level of security for their Loop components to help ensure that sensitive information isn’t mishandled.
- Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for Loop components is like DLP in apps, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint
Both Sensitivity Labels and Data Loss Prevention for Loop components will be generally available in Microsoft Teams chat by the end of the year.
That is interesting that we don’t get Loop components to channels yet..
Book of News and other sources
Pictures in this blog post are from Microsoft’s own blogs, Microsoft Ignite and also from Meta Connect.
Read more details :
- What’s New in Microsoft Teams | Microsoft Ignite 2022
- Introducing Mesh avatars for Microsoft Teams in Private Preview
- Microsoft and Meta partner to deliver immersive experiences for the future of work and play
and Meta Connect keynote video
- What’s new for Microsoft Teams Rooms, Teams devices, and intelligent cameras at Ignite 2022
- Introducing Microsoft Teams Premium, the better way to meet
- Enhance collaboration with Microsoft Teams chat and channels features for the hybrid workplace
- Microsoft Teams: Supercharge the who, where, and how of work
- Teams Phone Mobile general availability and other Teams Phone announcements from Ignite 2022