Join me on these two articles to learn the most relevant, on areas of this blog scope, highlights & announcements of Microsoft Build 2023, the annual developer conference that highlights the latest innovations and technologies from Microsoft. Yes, Artificial Intelligence was the top word today, as expected, but Microsoft Mesh did pop out as well – the Enterprise Metaverse is progressing steadily! I was not able to attend in person this time – but most of the content is available online in digital format. And it was free to register into Build digital edition. 😊
In these two articles, I share some of my highlights and insights on key announcements, mainly around these main themes: Microsoft Mesh & Teams and Microsoft 365 Copilot & Artificial Intelligence.
The original containing all topics became too long, so I divided this into two parts:
- Part 1: Microsoft Mesh and Teams. This article
- Part 2: Copilot and Artificial Intelligence
I recommend you keep coming back to these during Build. I will be updating articles as something new emerges.
- Microsoft Mesh: immersive experiences await!
- Microsoft Teams – for next level collaboration!
- Power Virtual Agents get AI boost!
- Closing words, part 1
Microsoft Mesh: immersive experiences await!
Microsoft Mesh is transforming the way we connect, collaborate, and create in the metaverse. It has been some time since Mesh was announced, and finally this March we got Mesh Avatars to public preview. In Build 2023 Microsoft Mesh finally takes a jump forward with more information. Let’s dig into what was announced!
Mesh Immersive Spaces for Microsoft Teams in preview
Since Mesh was announced I have been waiting to get to a Teams meeting and using View-menu to switch to the virtual reality meeting. Or using VR headset to join the meeting in a truly immersive way. Finally, Microsoft Mesh powered Immersive Meetings for Microsoft Teams are moving forward! Immersive Spaces make it possible to add an immersive experience to any Teams meeting – enhancing the presence and feeling of togetherness. These make it possible to connect with others in a new way and with new interactions that are not possible in 2D meetings, like Teams.
What was highlighted especially in the announcement was that you can “walk” over to other people in the space to engage in ad hoc small group conversations. This is possible with spatial audio that has a substantial difference compared to standard 2D/Teams meetings: you are not limited to one speaker, but people can talk at the same time when needed. This is useful especially when you are ideating or innovating with others and form up ad hoc groups to produce solutions or ideas. When you join the immersive meeting space you can, for example, see multiple conversations going on already. Or you need to have a quick private chat with someone. Instead of leaving the meeting you can just virtually walk away from others in an immersive space and have the chat. This produces less interruptions to the meeting as well.
You can use PC or virtual reality (VR) headset to join Mesh immersive spaces. Microsoft Teams makes this easy since you don’t need to install any external application or plugin. Using Teams, you can join with your PC using your video, just with an avatar or jump into the immersive space to be able to use full volume of interactions and experiences this new way of meeting has to offer.
Immersive spaces is available for Teams Technical Access Program (TAP) customers in private preview starting this week.
Microsoft Mesh platform is in private preview
Mesh platform was mentioned during Build 2022 it was mentioned in Satya Nadella’s keynote. Then we got some news early this year and now, finally, in Build 2023 we got information that Microsoft Mesh platform allows developers and creators to build custom, immersive experiences for the workplace. Just like with Immersive Spaces for Teams you can use PC or virtual reality (VR) headset to join the experience. These worlds/ experiences open a lot of options for businesses to create their custom experiences to the secure and compliant platform. This has always been the key thing with Microsoft Mesh – business have full control of their data.
With these custom shared experiences businesses can start building metaverse experiences that connect with their data and employees. Only our imagination will be liming us here! Build highlighted how organizations could start utilizing Microsoft Mesh custom worlds enhancing experiences beyond physical world boundaries. For example, town hall meeting could extend from the physical office to virtual worlds, connecting people in the hybrid world. How about employee onboarding or training, virtual tours, situation rooms, simulations, and other experiences where you can experience and look at the situation from “inside”. Immersive point of view can give people new understanding or awareness they don’t get in 2D trainings or tours. And of course – it would be a cool way to get to know your company’s new offices or products in immersive environment, especially when wearing the VR headset. Since we know XR headsets are not common today (until they become much lightweight and socially accepted as a norm) it is important that people can join these using their PC.
Microsoft Mesh provides core functionality for developers and creators to build custom environments, tools and platform that has built-in functionalities that makes people feel present and interactive with each other.
Microsoft Mesh platform details:
- Use Unity to Create new 3D environments or port existing ones into your space.
- Use cloud scripting to add interactivity. Inserting logic, integrating with live backend business data, connecting triggers to actions, infusing AI, and more – all with the full power of C# and .NET Core.
- Enrich the user experience. Integrate content such as videos from the web.
- Physics tools in Mesh: assign properties to objects using gravity or buoyancy.
- Design how objects behave with each other and when users interact with them.
- Performance tools in Mesh
- Mesh is built on Microsoft 365: identity management and enterprise-grade privacy and security are built-in.
- Event management capabilities to enable the creation, customization, and production
- Host large events by mirroring the content and experience across a set of smaller groups
Microsoft Mesh is available in private preview! 🤩
Microsoft Mesh Avatars: generally available and licensing requirements
If you are using desktop Teams app for Windows or Mac, you can expect Mesh Avatars to land to your Teams very shortly as it is generally available starting this week. Rollout may take some time, so you may not see them in your Teams right away.
On the licensing part, for Avatars you need to have Microsoft 365 Enterprise E3, Microsoft 365 Enterprise E5, Microsoft 365 Business Standard, Microsoft 365 Business Premium or Teams Premium. This means you can use Avatars with not listed licenses if you have Teams Premium license on the user.
Avatars are the first step towards the metaverse. It will take time for people to get to new experiences and interactions. That is where Avatars can help to get started. Organizations should start, if they have not already, planning adoption programs how employees are smoothly helped to understand benefits and reasons for avatars – and upcoming immersive experiences. This is a substantial change for a lot of people, and even just avatars themselves have created quite a spectrum of responses.
Microsoft Mesh: do you want to learn more?
Read Microsoft Blog post Microsoft Mesh: Transforming how people come together in the modern workplace. Build on-demand session Explore how to build in 3D with Microsoft Mesh.
On top of those, I am organizing a community conference named Metaverse One 2023 during September 20th. It is free to attend and there are 45 sessions by 51 speakers from all over the globe talking about Metaverse, Microsoft Mesh, Mixed Reality and of course the other hot topic of today: Artificial Intelligence. Keynotes by Jeff Teper, Karuana Gatimu and Pouneh Kaufman from Microsoft!
The day is a long one, and it allows people from different regions of the world to join sessions that work for their time zone. Australians, New Zealanders, and people in Americas: yes, you should join us in since we have speakers from your region! Check out the schedule!
Please register to this free community event in at Meetup or LinkedIn to show support and join us!
We appreciate if you share the word about the event – since we are 100% community, we do not have sponsors handing over advertisement budgets.
Microsoft Teams – for next level collaboration!
Microsoft Teams was already included with some Mesh announcements, but that was not all Teams got. I wanted to highlight a couple of great announcements for collaboration. As Build is a developer conference, these capabilities will help developers to create better and more engaging experiences for Microsoft Teams.
A small but nice addition is a new shortcut CTRL+J, which enables to toggle between the latest message and the last read message. Coming in June 2023.
There will be also other new features in Teams. Such as markdown improvements allowing to paste code blocks into Teams chat with syntax highlighting. Coming June 2023. Compact Chat list is coming generally available also during June 2023. Microsoft Loop application is getting developer love as well, by allowing developers to write or share code easily, directly in the Loop. Public Preview starting at the end of June 2023.
Teams Live Share SDK is now generally available
Live Share is a splendid feature in Microsoft Teams that allows meeting participants to work and interact together using a shared application. For example, Microsoft Whiteboard, Excel Live and Games for Teams are examples of Live Share enabled applications. This allows everyone to participate, instead of one sharing screen and others watching & commenting passively. Apps built for Live Share enable participants to annotate, edit, zoom in and out and interact with shared content on Teams meeting Stage.
Now that Live Share SDK is generally available, let’s take real-time collaboration in Teams meeting to next level 😊 App developers have the key role here to make it possible. And don’t miss Collaborative Stage View either, since it just went to generally available and has in addition Share to Meeting.
Learn more about Live Share SDK
Build custom natural language Teams bots using Teams Toolkit
Teams Toolkit is a set of tools that helps developers create and deploy apps for Microsoft Teams using Visual Studio Code or Visual Studio. It provides various resources for developers with aim to simplify and accelerate the app development process for Teams. The next step there are AI Libraries, which are now in preview and available to use in the Teams Toolkit for Visual Studio. New libraries provide interfaces to natural language (or LLM, large language) models and user intent engines. These libraries will provide a simple approach to building Teams apps with LLM capabilities. Toolkit makes it possible to focus on business logic, instead of learning how to create LLM powered Teams bots from scratch…
This is excellent news and one more reason to learn more about the Teams Toolkit!
Learn more about Teams Toolkit and more from Microsoft 365 dev article
Power Virtual Agents get AI boost!
Power Platform’s Power Virtual Agents have been my favorite way to create bots in Teams. First: it is a low code approach, and it makes it possible to focus more on logic and content, instead of developing. Both Teams Toolkit and PVA have their strengths and weaknesses. Now PVA (Power Virtual Agents) gets more AI capabilities.
- Power Virtual Agents can generate dialogue and complete actions by dynamically chaining together user-provided tools without the need for manual authoring of conversational logic. These tools can include custom connectors, Power Automate flows and existing topics in the bot. Feature uses Azure OpenAI Service to make it possible to fulfill requests the bot author may not have anticipated or implemented. This sounds cool, but at this point this is still in limited preview. Note to self: learn more about this, since this is really something that will help organizations by making bots smarter and intelligent!
- Azure conversational language understanding (CLU) integration will allow builders to bring custom language models to Power Virtual Agents by leveraging CLU, including dialogue triggering, interruptions, “did you mean” and slot filling. This integration allows authors to create and map CLU intents and entities to PVA topics. This is now in preview.
- Conversation boosters in PVA now features SharePoint and OneDrive URLs and multi-turn conversations. This is interesting, since it means you can hook PVA onto certain company resources for easy and updateable way to get answers to questions.
- Copilot in Power Virtual Agents is generally available. This will make creation on topics with logic even easier. You can just describe what you want topic to do, and Copilot will create it.
These features will be available when using PVA’s new authoring canvas. They are not in Dataverse for Teams PVA yet. It is also good to be aware that Copilot for Power Automate is now in preview – it can help to gain speed when developing and changing flows. One other cool Power Automate feature announced was general availability formatting data by examples. This has been a saver for me numerous times when building flows. 😊
While those capabilities are not available for Dataverse for Teams, it does look like that there is a separate article about how to automate creation of intelligent Microsoft Teams bots using natural language. It looks like you can make bot creation in Teams PVA easy. For example, helpdesk, human resources, department, onboarding and other bots will be easy to author. During authoring you build bot using natural language and point to any website that is available within the tenant for Teams users. And bot is published of course to Teams, like Dataverse for Teams PVA bots. I can see this one having a lot of use cases! This is now in preview, but it is a perfect time to get started.
Learn more from Microsoft blog
Closing words, part 1
Microsoft Build 2023 is an amazing event that showcases of Artificial Intelligence, Metaverse, what new and upcoming tech and innovations are coming from Microsoft. There is quite a lot of work changing announcements that will be making an impact. Microsoft Mesh, straightforward way to create intelligent bots and of course Copilot plugins and creating custom applications that use Artificial Intelligence have the potential to change how we work. I have been talking about the Future of Work for quite a long time, and it is great to see how the future is today.
You can join & watch Microsoft Build sessions on demand at https://build.microsoft.com/en-US/home.
See all the announcements from the Microsoft Build 2023 Book of News.
Thank you for reading! (Yes, I know – this was a long one even when I split this)
Pictures and videos, except Metaverse One, are from Microsoft Blog posts and announcements.
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