Ignite 2021: Microsoft unveils Mesh, its new social mixed reality platform

Laurent Giret

Microsoft has kicked off its Ignite conference this morning with a fascinating keynote that was best experienced with Mixed Reality Headsets. HoloLens inventor Alex Kipman surprised the audience by appearing as a “holoportation” of himself, showing how mixed reality technology can make it possible to create shared experiences for people in different locations.

Today’s keynote was Microsoft’s first opportunity to unveil Microsoft Mesh, a new Azure-powered Mixed Reality platform. As some of you may remember, “Mesh” isn’t exactly a new brand for the software giant, as “Windows Live Mesh” was the name of the Ray Ozzie live sync service that eventually morphed into SkyDrive/OneDrive. Anyway, Microsoft Mesh is a completely different animal, a social mixed reality platform that Alex Kipman had envisioned many years ago.

“This has been the dream for mixed reality, the idea from the very beginning,” said Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman. “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.”

With Microsoft Mesh, customers will be able to let their different teams join shared virtual experiences and have more collaborative meetings. Employees will appear as avatars on the social mixed reality platform, but they will also be able to “holoport” themselves as persistent holograms as Kipman did during the keynote this morning.

One of the target audiences for Microsoft Mesh is designers, architects, and engineers, who will be able to use the platform to work with colleagues on 3D models. However, Microsoft also imagines companies using Microsoft Mesh to hold virtual all-hands meetings or train employees working remotely.

Microsoft Mesh is available in two forms today: There’s a Microsoft Mesh app for HoloLens headsets for teams looking to collaborate remotely, but Microsoft Mesh is also accessible with an updated version of AltSpace VR, Microsoft’s existing social VR platform. If Microsoft Mesh will really shine on mixed or virtual reality devices, the company wants the platform to also be accessible on PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

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