As part of Microsoft’s virtual Ignite 2021 conference, the tech giant unveiled ‘Mesh,’ its new augmented and virtual reality (AR, VR) platform built on Azure.
Mesh, in short, is meant as a tool to help developers build “immersive, multiuser, cross-platform mixed reality apps,” mixed reality (MR) referring to everything from the real environment we exist in to an entirely virtual environment.
In a technical overview blog post, Microsoft outlines how Mesh solves various difficult problems with MR so developers can focus on designing their MR apps instead of solving complex challenges like keeping a hologram stable in a shared MR space, representing people with appropriate realism and more.
On a website detailing Mesh, Microsoft breaks it down as allowing users to “Feel presence,” “Experience together” and “Connect from anywhere.”
For example, the company talks about using ‘holoportation’ to project yourself in MR in a photorealistic sense to interact with others as if you were actually in the room with them. Experience together, on the other hand, is about virtual collaboration — Microsoft illustrates this with several images of people looking at and working with a shared hologram.
If you’re anything like me, you may look at the marketing material and find yourself thinking it looks awfully glamourous and, well, not really something we can actually do right now. And, to an extent, you’d be right.
The Verge’s Tom Warren had an opportunity to go hands-on with Mesh in what he described as something “like a Microsoft Teams meeting set in the future.” In Warren’s demo, participants appeared as avatars — Microsoft’s ‘holoportation’ feature will come in the future. The avatars come from AltspaceVR, a virtual social network Microsoft acquired in 2017. Further, in the demo, Warren was able to handle virtual items, resize them, put them down or pass them to other participants.
Of course, MR meetings are just one of many possible Mesh applications. Microsoft hopes developers will leverage the platform to build out new experiences for users. Mesh will also be available on various devices, including the HoloLens 2, several virtual reality headsets, tablets, smartphones and PCs. A preview of Mesh on the HoloLens 2 is available now, and the company plans to integrate Mesh with Teams and Dynamics 365 in the future.
Mesh holds potential, but it’ll rely on developers to build out experiences that people actually want to use — if that doesn’t happen, then Mesh may not take off in the way Microsoft hopes.
Image credit: Microsoft