How Microsoft Wants to Make Collaborating Easier

Same room, different spaces

Key Takeaways

  • Microsoft Mesh is the future of Microsoft’s mixed-reality technology.
  • Mesh is focused on making collaborating easier through the use of augmented- and virtual-reality applications.
  • Experts believe that Mesh addresses problems that existed long before the collaboration issues caused by COVID-19 lockdowns.
Two teens learning to cook from a hologram cooking lesson.
Donald Iain Smith / Getty Images

Microsoft Mesh is just one answer to the growing problem of making collaborating easier.

Microsoft recently unveiled Microsoft Mesh, the company's mixed-reality platform built to make collaborating easier. Designed to work with a multitude of virtual-reality (VR) and augmented-reality (AR) headsets, the new tech will allow users to collaborate in both virtual and physical locations in a more immersive way.

Experts believe that the blending of real-world and virtual actions could be a solution to many of the problems surrounding collaborating with others, even once the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic has vanished.

"Physical collaborations had many inconveniences—even before the pandemic," Timoni West, the vice president of augmented and virtual reality at Unity Technologies, told Lifewire via email. 

"Traveling to meetings is time-consuming and expensive, as well as increased awareness of its environmental impact. Mesh is another step toward enabling fully immersive virtual collaboration."

Going Virtual 

While the past year has brought the problems of collaboration front and center due to various lockdowns and work-from-home conditions, there always have been problems when it comes to collaborating with others.

"The hardest part about working remotely is being alone."

Travel can be time-consuming, and then you also have to take into account the cost of travel, any additional equipment needed, and more. Depending on what the collaboration is for, you could end up spending a large sum of money just to make it happen.

With technology like Microsoft Mesh, companies—and users—can skip all the extra nonsense and, instead, work together from pretty much anywhere in the world.

"Microsoft Mesh is an XR collaborative platform that provides a sense of physical presence," Thomas Amilien, co-founder and CEO of Clay Air, told us via email.

"Participants can see other participants in the form of avatars or holographs, collaborate together in a common space, and interact together with 3D virtual and holographic content."

Because it functions similarly to virtual reality, Mesh could be used to showcase prototypes and even find solutions to mechanical issues by using virtual items instead of the more expensive physical ones.

It also allows more users to collaborate, since you don’t have to worry about the limits imposed by the cost to bring those people together in the same room.

Increasing Visualization

If you’ve ever had an idea or a thought that you really wanted to show a friend, but couldn’t because just drawing it on a piece of paper wasn’t good enough, Mesh could be the answer.

"Visualization is also a key feature, especially in use cases like prototyping where engineers, designers and product folks need to have excellent communication when handling 3D models," Amilien explained.

"This is where hands-free features also play an important role in collaboration: users can point to a specific part of an object or move it with more precision than a controller and without disrupting the flow of the conversation."

Unlike most virtual reality headsets, Microsoft Mesh fully supports hand-tracking, allowing users to interact with the mixed-reality environments they find themselves in without bulky controllers getting in the way.

Alex Kipman demonstrating Microsoft Mesh virtual reality.

This, Amilien believes, is one of the strongest points that Mesh has going for it when it comes to increasing collaboration efficiency.

By adding in more ways for users to visualize their projects, and more ways for them to come together, overall, Microsoft is looking to change how we collaborate. It’s a good move, especially as more businesses like Facebook and Slack push to continue with work-from-home programs

According to West, Unity has seen more and more demand for virtual collaboration among its customers. With Mesh, more of those users now will be able to overcome any physical challenges that might stand in the way of collaborating, while also opening the door for remote workers to get more involved without having to travel unnecessarily.

"The hardest part about working remotely is being alone," Jon Cheney, CEO and co-founder of Seek, wrote via email.

"People have worked in offices for thousands of years because it allows for faster, more real-time collaboration, and people are just simply wired to interact with other people more. Microsoft Mesh brings that reality to life, even in a world where working from home is a new global standard."

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