Microsoft Mesh allows users in different physical locations to meet in a shared virtual environment. Participants appear either as a customized avatar or as themselves. (Image Credit: Microsoft)
During the Microsoft Ignite developer conference on March 2nd, Microsoft unveiled Mesh, a real-time mixed-reality communication platform. It’s an impressive innovation! The main idea behind this is to allow people from different physical locations to join a virtual environment. Holoportation, a process that uses 3D capture technology to produce a hologram of each person, virtually beams a user into the holographic world. Everything here runs on Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure.
By using Mesh, users have the ultimate experience in mixed reality or virtual reality. It works with Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, various virtual reality headsets, smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Participants can appear in a virtual environment either as themselves or as a customized avatar. It also has hand/eye-tracking, allowing users to pass holographic objects off to one another.
“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.”
OceanX announced a partnership with Microsoft to develop a Microsoft Mesh-enabled holographic lab on OceanXplorer. (Image Credit: OceanX)
OceanX has already landed a partnership with Microsoft to develop a holographic lab on the OceanXplorer. This allows scientists to use the Mesh platform to gather in person or virtually from labs and offices around the world. They can then see the 3D holograms of the areas the vessels are exploring.
For example, researchers observing sperm whales would be able to view a deep see canyon holographic image with data collected from tags on the whales. It would provide information such as salinity, temperature, and ocean chemistry changes. Data from fish finders detailing where squid and other prey are located could also be included.
“The idea is to take all this amazing scientific data we’re collecting and bring it into a holographic setting and use it as a way to guide scientific missions in real-time,” said Vincent Pieribone, vice chairman of OceanX.
In the next few months, Microsoft plans on providing developers with AI-powered tools for creating avatars, session management, spatial rendering, and syncing across multiple users. The first two apps developed on the Mesh platform can be downloaded. Those apps include the Microsoft Mesh App for HoloLens, which allows team members to gather in a shared space, and an improved Mesh-enabled version of AltSpaceVR. Participants can host meetings in virtual reality using the business-focused app, AltSpaceVR. Microsoft wants external developers and partners to Mesh-enable their apps and benefit from planned integration with Microsoft Teams and Dynamics 365.
“This is why we’ve been so passionate about mixed reality as the next big medium for collaborative computing,” Kipman said. “It’s magical when two people see the same hologram.”
Niantic also demonstrated Pokemon Go on the HoloLens 2. John Hanke, Niantic CEO, walked around a park and fed a Pikachu before being challenged to a battle by his colleague. However, this was only a proof-of-concept and isn’t something we’d expect to see on the HoloLens. Hanke empathized that it’s not going to be released on consumer products.
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