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Microsoft unveils Mesh, betting on mixed reality for gatherings and collaboration across platforms

The avatar will see you now.

Or at least Microsoft hopes so. In a world still adjusting to the realities of remote work and life, the tech giant just doubled down on the concept with , representing its vision for how we’ll meet in the future.

Announced at Microsoft’s virtual Ignite conference, Mesh promises to let people use headsets, computers and handheld devices to connect in virtual, 3D spaces, represented by both animated and photorealistic avatars.

The company says Mesh will work via its HoloLens 2 headset, but also virtual reality headsets including the Oculus Quest 2, and mobile phones, tablets and computers using Mesh-enabled apps.

Microsoft’s larger vision also puts it in direct competition with Facebook, the Oculus parent company, which .

Mesh is built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform, and promises to follow the cloud model of handling much of the technical work in the platform itself. , the company says the goal is to create a “platform for developers to design immersive multiuser MR apps without having to worry about complex technical problems.”

Alex Kipman, the Microsoft technical fellow who oversees the company’s HoloLens mixed reality headset and platform, unveiled the Mesh technology during the keynote address at Microsoft Ignite virtual conference Tuesday morning. He appeared in a presentation hosted in Mesh via Altspace VR,

Without going into detail, Kipman made it clear that Mesh will also be integrated with Microsoft Teams, the company’s digital hub for communication and collaboration.

“Envision a Mesh-enabled Microsoft Teams, where colleagues from around the globe can collaborate as if they’re physically there,” Kipman said. “In a world of hybrid work, where ‘here’ can literally be anywhere and headquarters are no longer tied to a single physical location, Mesh will allow organizations to host mixed reality gatherings with everyone in the same room.”

Business scenarios are the company’s traditional bread-and-butter, but Kipman’s presentation also previewed Mesh partnerships with Pokemon GO maker Niantic, filmmaker James Cameron and the deep sea exploration nonprofit OceanX, among others.

The company released two apps to launch the new platform, the , and .

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