Credits: Microsoft

Imagine being in your room and attending office meetings as a hologram. Sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, does it not? From Tuesday onward, this will no longer remain fictional, as Microsoft has announced its newest meeting space, Mesh, a service to build apps for people to collaborate in augmented reality.

Microsoft Mesh is a cloud-based mixed reality meeting room allowing people from remote locations to be a part of a shared holographic experience using mixed reality devices such as Holo Lens. Microsoft plans to integrate the platform with its other enterprise products including Teams and Dynamics 365. Mixed reality headsets overlay a virtual world or object over a physical world or object. Mesh will be an Azure service and associated software development kit. Select customers can start testing the Mesh cloud service now in preview before it becomes available for all.

Augmented reality (AR) is set to be the next computing platform that will replace the smartphone, and nearly all the major tech companies are embroiled in the race to launch the first mainstream product in the market. AR shows computer-generated images superimposed over the real world. Apple and Facebook are reportedly building their own AR equipment for release over the next couple of years.

At the Ignite Conference 2021, Alex Kipman, Microsoft Technical Fellow, said, “This has been the dream for mixed reality, the idea from the very beginning. You can actually 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.”

Mesh beams a lifelike image of the person into a virtual scene with the help of 3D capture technology. Initially, participants in Mesh meeting rooms will be represented by their virtual avatars. Microsoft plans to incorporate holo-portation in due course, allowing participants to project their lifelike, photorealistic selves in the meetings. It is a collaborative platform that allows anyone to have shared virtual experiences on a variety of devices.

Mesh is also set to become a handy tool for designers, engineers, architects, or medical researchers working on 3D physical models, allowing them to appear as themselves in a shared virtual space and iterate on holographic models projected within it.

According to Microsoft, “Mesh will also enable geographically distributed teams to have more collaborative meetings, conduct virtual design sessions, assist others, learn together and host virtual social meetups,” thanks to the powerful mixed reality experience. People’s avatars will be present in the virtual experience or their holographic selves, depending on what a user opts for.

Mesh will work both with AR and VR (virtual reality) systems, making it possible for people without AR systems to participate in virtual gatherings with those who do. People can join Mesh-enabled meetings on devices like PCs, tablets, or smartphones.

To illustrate what Mesh can do, Microsoft built a sample app that runs on the HoloLens, where people can, after putting on a HoloLens and opening the app, design an avatar to represent themselves, and join a meeting with other people, whose avatars appear like holograms. People’s heads, bodies, and hands can all move thanks to the information the headsets capture, and it’s possible to talk with everyone, similar to a video call.