Microsoft brings avatars to Groups enterprise prospects to spruce up conferences

Is the tedium of videoconferencing getting you down? Fret not. You’ll be happy to know that, for those who’re a Groups customers, avatars are actually typically out there for all Microsoft 365 Enterprise and Enterprise licenses beginning this week within the Groups desktop app on Home windows and Mac. Hurrah.

Microsoft notes that avatars for Microsoft Groups “supply an alternative choice to the present binary choice of video or no video” and have “customizable avatars and reactions,” giving customers the choice of a digital camera break “whereas encouraging engagement and enjoyable.” I’m undecided I’d go that far. However hey, they make for a extra entertaining work name than a clean display — supposedly.

Avatars in Teams

Picture Credit: Microsoft

In associated information, Microsoft at the moment introduced the launch of Mesh in non-public preview, its platform that lets builders construct VR-focused experiences for the office. Groups customers can be part of immersive areas, additionally in non-public preview, which purpose to “mimic many parts of in-person interactions,” like the flexibility to stroll over to a bunch and catch up.

The Mesh rollout feels, in some ways, just like the final vestiges of Microsoft’s try to make the “metaverse” — no matter that time period implies, now — occur. Mesh was introduced almost two years in the past, and Microsoft has made strikes that sign its funding in VR and AR tech is winding down. In January, the corporate shuttered AltspaceVR, which was constructing social VR experiences, as part of company-wide restructuring. And Microsoft reportedly canceled the successor to its HoloLens 2 headset because of “strategic uncertainty.”

Microsoft denies this, after all. A spokesperson mentioned by way of e-mail: “We proceed to see robust curiosity and demand from prospects for our immersive options. Our prospects inform us that accommodating a world workforce that’s extra dispersed than ever post-pandemic may end up in the lack of pure, significant connections within the office … [With Mesh,] organizations have the chance to rebuild misplaced social capital whereas additionally serving to scale back the monetary burden and environmental affect of journey and services.”

However it’s clear from the remainder of the objects out of Construct at the moment that Microsoft’s singularly targeted on dominating the generative AI area. There’s actually a extra apparent return there than the metaverse, which has price Meta, one other tech large intent on keen VR into widespread adoption, billions upon billions of {dollars}. (Tellingly, Meta, increasingly, is diverting its consideration from VR tech in favor of AI, partly because of investor strain.)

Time will inform whether or not it’s the precise transfer. However it’d appear that Microsoft has no regrets concerning the pivot but.

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