Microsoft opposes Facebook by announcing that it is bringing “metaverse” into “Teams” —its own version of “Zoom”— which has also been integrated into Windows 11. Users, in the first phase, will be able, from 2022, to appear as live cartoons, or 3D digital personalities (“avatars”) in their web chats; as well as to visit and share virtual workspaces, without having to wear a special VR (Virtual Reality) device on their head; but if one uses something like that, then his digital experience will be even more enriched.
Microsoft’s move shows two basic things:
- On the one hand, the big tech companies are taking “metaverse” (the upcoming “online” mix of physical and digital worlds) seriously,
- on the other hand, they do not intend to let Facebook —which deliberately changed its name to “Meta”— monopolize this development.
Microsoft has announced that in the first half of next year, employees and other users of the “Teams” video conferencing platform will be able to appear not as individuals but as digital and —using these personal “avatars”— will participate in meetings that will take place in virtual offices! The American company’s design is based on the new “Mesh” technology, which allows the management of complex interactions in the virtual field in different devices; from computers to virtual reality “helmets” worn on the head.
Microsoft believes that —after extensive teleworking and “hybrid” work (partly physically and partly remotely)— this will be the next big trend in the world of work: Employees will increasingly interact in the future in virtual and augmented reality environments, without having to appear in front of the camera! The user will be able to choose whether to appear in an online meeting himself, or to “send” his digital persona!
As the head of “Teams”, Jared Spataro, stated:
“With 250 million people in the world using ‘Teams’, the introduction of ‘avatars’ will be the first element of ‘metaverse’ to look real!”
Microsoft intends to integrate other software into the new virtual reality; e.g. enabling employees “Teams” users to make “PowerPoint” presentations at “metaverse”. In addition, the company will use artificial intelligence, so that —after first hearing the user’s voice— the “avatar” will move his lips as if he were really saying the words with the human voice; while, at the same time, the appropriate —for every occasion— facial expressions and gestures will be added to these “avatars”.
In the next step, translation support will be added, so that one can communicate with people from all over the world —through the “Teams” virtual space— without language barriers. Businesses will also be able to create their own virtual spaces; something like separate “metaverses” within “Teams”.
According to the “Financial Times”, this is a gradual —and perhaps more pragmatic— approach to the adoption of “metaverse” by employees, which seems to contradict Facebook’s more “revolutionary” one, which envisions from the start a full virtual reality working environment. It is clear, however, that Microsoft and Facebook will compete in the “metaverse” era.
In a separate development, according to Reuters, Microsoft announced the implementation of new technologies that allow its own “cloud computing” services to work in data centers of other companies, even competitors!
Microsoft is —mainly thanks to its “Azure”— already the No. 2 in the world in the market of “cloud” services, after Amazon Web Services, according to the research company “Gartner”.
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