Microsoft hopes to enable better-shared experiences from anywhere with its new mixed reality offering, Microsoft Mesh.
The company announced the solution yesterday at Microsoft Ignite with Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté appearing via holoportation. This technology uses 3D capture to “beam a lifelike image of a person into a virtual scene.” During the keynote, attendees could also appear as avatars at the conference and watch it together in a shared holographic world.
“This has been the dream for mixed reality, the idea from the beginning,” said Alex Kipman, Microsoft Technical Fellow. “You can feel like you’re in the same place with someone sharing content, or you can teleport from different mixed reality devices and be present with people even when you’re not physically together.”
According to Microsoft, this new mixed reality solution is built on Azure. It will allow distributed teams to have collaborative meetings, conduct virtual design sessions, assist others, learn together, and host virtual social meetups. Currently, people can join as avatars, but in time they will be able to use holoportation to project a lifelike version of themselves.
Microsoft Mesh is accessible from any Mesh-enabled app on the HoloLens 2, VR headsets, mobile phones, tablets, or PCs.
Use cases for Microsoft Mesh include architects and engineers walking through a holographic model of a factory floor, medical students learning about human anatomy, and colleagues meeting up in a virtual space.
The company explained that Microsoft Mesh results from several years of research in areas such as hand and eye-tracking, HoloLens development, and creating persistent holograms and AI models that can create expressive avatars.
Over the next few months, features will be added to the platform, such as a full suite of AI tools for avatars, session management, spatial rendering, synchronization across multiple users, and holoportation.
“More and more, we are building value in our intelligent cloud, which is Azure,” Kipman said. “In these collaborative experiences, the content is not inside my device or my application. The holographic content is in the cloud, and I need the special lenses to see it.”
At Ignite, Microsoft shared two apps already built on the Microsoft Mesh platform: a preview of the Microsoft Mesh app for HoloLens and a Mesh-enabled AltspaceVR, a VR app where people can meet up in a virtual shared space.
“This is why we’ve been so passionate about mixed reality as the next big medium for collaborative computing,” Kipman said. “It’s magical when two people see the same hologram.”