By John Payne from Computecoin
Microsoft Mesh will let people around the world work together in near-perfect synchrony in a mixed-reality environment. Fortunately for Microsoft, the internet giant’s cloud service Azure (a competitor of AWS and Google Cloud) offers an easy solution to the question of supplying Mesh with enough computing power to make good on its promise of seamless virtual co-working. Time will tell if Microsoft’s strategy will pay dividends.
Microsoft Mesh is a VR-based co-working platform that allows users to collaborate — in augmented reality — with their colleagues in hologram form. Users of the sample app Microsoft put together to demonstrate Mesh can experience the metaverse platform with Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset but Microsoft plans to allow people to “see, share, and collaborate on persistent 3D content” on Mesh available through PCs and smartphones.” HoloLens users will be able to interact with each other on Mesh using a full range of body language, since the headsets capture information like posture, head movement and gesticulations. Users will also interact with “eye contact” and “facial expressions.” Microsoft, which announced Mesh in March, intends to integrate the platform with its Teams co-working app.
Microsoft Mesh will allow users to collaborate on projects in a mixed-reality environment.
Mesh represents Microsoft’s entry into big tech’s race to the metaverse. Microsoft has big ambitions for the project: It wants users to be able to quickly obtain important information wherever they are, whenever, and immediately act on it, thus speeding up “decision-making [and] problem solving.” Moreover, colleagues collaborating with each other from opposite ends of the globe can “holoport” to a virtual meeting room and build a “common understanding” built on their shared, synchronous experience with 3D objects in AR space, an understanding that will smoothen the virtual co-working experience without necessitating burdensome travel. Furthermore, with Mesh, Microsoft intends to overcome the three major obstacles — hardware, network, and software — that have so far prevented mixed reality from being a viable alternative to in-person co-working. Microsoft made significant progress during the pandemic on the front of AR-enhanced virtual collaboration for businesses; of all Fortune 500 companies, more than half have used Microsoft’s HoloLens or other mixed reality devices since the crisis began.
Microsoft manages the data centers used for Azure applications and services. This gives Microsoft considerable control over the tools and infrastructure that will power Mesh. Microsoft won’t need to rely on a third-party cloud service to ensure that Mesh runs smoothly for all its users. By owning the source of Mesh’s computing power, Microsoft can avoid the downtime associated with waiting for a third party cloud services provider to come back online. And Microsoft will be able to harvest through Azure a massive amount of user data from Mesh and the Microsoft-made VR and AR devices users that will serve as users’ portals to Mesh, data which Microsoft and Microsoft alone will own.
Mesh, which will run on Azure, will be accessible through Microsoft’s HoloLens VR headsets, as well as other devices, like smartphones and PCs.
Mesh will sit atop Azure’s venerable cloud infrastructure. But the premise of this arrangement — owning your own computing power provider — isn’t flawless. Users won’t be able to own their data, for one. Two, Azure is already handling other platforms’ and companies’ needs. Azure isn’t Mesh’s dedicated cloud services provider; it’s the infrastructure layer for a lot of enterprises already, like Adobe, Coca-Cola, NBC Universal, Tencent and Uber. Microsoft can’t afford to earmark all of Azure’s processing capacity for Mesh, which will inevitably have to share a finite amount of computing power with a laundry list of giant multinationals. Whether the persistent 3D objects and “holoportation” touted by Microsoft will be fluid enough to make Mesh attractive to corporate users and practical for working could have a big impact on Mesh’s reception.