Microsoft’s grand metaverse plans to start with Teams app

Microsoft plans to offer its vision of the metaverse in 2022 with Microsoft Teams – and it includes smartphones.

The company has said the upgraded experiences will also be available on smartphones and laptops amid Facebook’s metaverse plans.

Microsoft has said next year Teams users will be able to access their meetings on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets and participate in them as a virtual space. There will be animated avatars at play with expressions and the meeting participants may be able to choose a virtual location too such as a coffee shop, instead of a boring background.

Organisations can also build immersive spaces, the company has confirmed signalling scope for companies and businesses using Teams to customise the interactivity experiences for their employees.

“Think of the metaverse as a new version – or a new vision – of the internet, one where people gather to communicate, collaborate and share with personal virtual presence on any device,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Jeff Teper, vice president responsible for Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive, said these tools are “to signal we’re in the same virtual space, we’re one team, we’re one group, and help take the formality down a peg and the engagement up a peg”.

The experiences will be enabled once Microsoft plugs in the Mesh platform, something the company has been developing for the metaverse before it became a cool topic of conversation and speculation.

Microsoft has said the Mesh for Teams will not be restricted to just meetings. The wider scope will include immersive face-to-face meetings, chats, emails, and video calls.

Microsoft is attempting to keep the compatibility as extensive as possible. It wants this to work with phones, VR headsets, laptops to a HoloLens mixed reality glass.

Microsoft’s metaverse vision for Teams comes amid Facebook’s focus on Horizon Workrooms, a virtual remote work and collaboration platform, which includes mixed reality tracking, avatars, remote desktop streaming, spatial audio, and video conferencing.

These workrooms are limited to the Oculus Quest 2 headset users only. Facebook’s work collaboration pitch has not ended there. Quest for Business platform will roll out as a new beta next year, while productivity apps including Dropbox, Slack, Canva and Spike will soon work with VR on the Horizon Home platform. Facebook Messenger will soon bring audio calls in VR as well.