United States tech giant Microsoft is taking the plunge into the metaverse via updates to its Teams and Xbox gaming console services, along with a new product called “Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces.”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the firm’s metaverse plans for Teams and Spaces on Tuesday during the Microsoft Ignite conference.
“The Metaverse enables us to embed computing into the real world and to embed the real world into computing. Bringing real presence to any digital space. What’s most important is that we are able to bring our humanity with us, and choose how we want to experience this world,” Nadella said.
The update for Microsoft Teams is dubbed “Mesh” and its initial rollout in 2022 will provide users with personalized digital avatars and immersive spaces to meet in the metaverse “that can be accessed from any device, with no special equipment needed.”
Later down the road of Mesh’s development, organizations will also be able to build custom spaces to support contexts such as meetings or “social mixers.”
Microsoft’s new Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces product is set for its first preview in December 2021, and it will enable organizations to combine metaverse and artificial intelligence (AI) technology with their businesses. The firm said that Spaces can be used to harness observational data from cameras from the “the retail store to the factory floor,” in what it is calling a “hybrid work environment.”
“With the power of your existing cameras, harness computer vision and observational data to help complete the picture—giving a new perspective into people, places, and things,” wrote Vishal Sood, general manager of Connected Spaces, in a Tuesday blog post.
“Following deployment, simply turn on AI-powered models, known as skills, to help understand specific scenarios such as customer behavior at a promotional display, traffic patterns, and insights unique to your space.”
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During an interview with Bloomberg TV on Wednesday, Nadella also stated that Microsoft’s video game firm, Xbox, will “absolutely” work on integrating the metaverse into its gaming lines. The CEO kept his cards close to his chest, however, as he didn’t provide any concrete updates for the gaming sector.
“You can absolutely expect us to do things in gaming,” Nadella said, and added:
“If you take Halo as a game, it is a Metaverse. Minecraft is a Metaverse, and so is Flight Sim. In some sense, they’re 2D today and the question is can you now take that to a fully 3D world, and we absolutely plan to do so.”
Microsoft is not the only mainstream giant to come out with metaverse plans this week, with Cointelegraph reporting earlier on Wednesday that Nike had submitted applications for trademarks of its iconic logo and slogan for use in “online virtual worlds.” The firm has also posted two recent job listings for virtual material designers.
Nike said the new recruits would “play a key role in redefining our digital world, ushering us into the Metaverse.”
Social media giant Facebook is famously taking the plunge into the metaverse, rebranding itself as Meta and working to provide a platform for creators to build virtual online businesses, connect online experiences with the physical world, and launch its virtual reality hardware business named “Reality Labs.”
During an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Friday, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian commented on Facebook’s plans, labeling it a “masterstroke in diversion and distraction” from the problems that have plagued the firm.
While Ohanian noted that Meta should not be “underestimated,” he emphasized that there is enough organic movement from the crypto sector to create an open metaverse as opposed to one controlled by the social media giant:
“Right now, there is this bottom-up movement to create the Metaverse. You’re seeing a lot of this happening in the crypto community. You’re seeing a lot of people building what I think is, what most of us hope will become, a much more organic type of world rather than a top-down Facebook-imposed one.”