We are almost two years into the global pandemic that forced many of us to work remotely and the landscape of how we interact in the workplace is about to dramatically change again. Welcome to the Metaverse, a virtual world in which users can meet, socialize, shop, learn, collaborate, and perform various activities in a virtual world. Whether in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR,) or simply on a screen, the promise of the metaverse will allow greater overlap of our digital world and physical lives.
Thanks in large part to the pandemic, online users skyrocketed and Microsoft added approximately 95 million users in 2020 alone. In 2019, there were 20 million Microsoft Teams users and in Q2 of 2021 that number exploded to 145 million users. Business leaders found that remote workers were more efficient than they anticipated but they also found that most employees missed the workplace interaction. Chance encounters at the proverbial water cooler and body language across the conference room table just can’t be replicated remotely. So, while the ability to work from anywhere is awesome, online meetings can feel impersonal and lack the nuances that build relationships and, ultimately, careers.
Although the video feature on most apps enables remote workers to “see” eachother online, it can feel awkward, and too often people turn off the video feature leaving colleagues with a static photo or, worse, a bubble with their initials. Microsoft aims to change all this when they roll out Mesh for Teams in 2022 which will enable shared experiences from anywhere, on any device, via mixed reality applications. The feature combines the AR/VR capabilities of Microsoft Mesh, which allows people in different physical locations to connect and collaborate through personalized avatars and immersive spaces, with the productivity tools of Teams.
Be prepared to spark creativity and foster more intimate connections with this new generation of 2D and 3D meeting experiences. Join virtual meetings, send chats, collaborate on shared documents, and more as you “meet” within a digital universe. These virtual experiences will work best with a VR or AR headset, but they will be open to everyone across multiple devices thanks to the animated avatar work. Microsoft is adding translation support as well so you can connect globally with fewer barriers.
The bottom line is, that with traditional online meetings or presentations, you have anywhere from 30-45 minutes before “meeting fatigue” sets in and users tune out. Mesh builds on existing Team features and creates a more collaborative and immersive experience where formality is reduced and engagement is increased. The hope is that Microsoft Teams will be able to leverage virtual meeting spaces and personal avatars in the first half of 2022 to create a more dynamic and immersive space. The closer we can reflect our physical self in the digital realm, the more barriers we break down and the better able we are to bring our humanity to the online world.
The goal is to spark creativity and innovation and the Metaverse, with its ability to stretch beyond the limitations of the physical world, might just be the answer. And, as a Microsoft partner, Grapevine MSP is positioned to help you safely navigate the Metaverse and beyond.