Mesh in Teams Now Generally Available
- By Kurt Mackie
- January 24, 2024
Mesh in Microsoft Teams is now at the "general availability" commercial-release stage, per a Wednesday announcement.
Mesh in Teams lets organizations conduct online meetings in artificial environments, called "immersive spaces," using three-dimensional (3D) avatars to represent the participants. Microsoft claimed that Mesh connections will "feel more like face-to-face interactions," and offered testimonials from organizations already using it, namely "Accenture, BP, Takeda and Mercy Ships."
The general notion is that organizations can foster team connections, even with a globally spread-out workforce, and save on travel costs for large meetings using Mesh. The Mesh in Teams experience is aided by having spatial audio, which is described as enabling side discussions during brainstorming sessions.
Organizations can use the immersive spaces provided with Mesh for their meetings, or it is possible to create new immersive spaces using the Mesh Toolkit, which works with the Unity 3D development platform. Microsoft also offers a "no-code editor," which can be used to customize immersive spaces by adding a logo or a video feed to an environment.
"To build experiences for Mesh, we recommend intermediate to advanced Unity skills," a Microsoft spokesperson indicated. It'll be possible for event creators to "save their experiences in the Microsoft Mesh app as reusable templates," which is explained in this guide.
Mesh User Access
End users wanting to use immersive spaces can access it in Teams via the View menu. They also need to download the Mesh app, which is described here. It's possible to use the "Mesh app for PC from the Microsoft Store or the Mesh app for Meta Quest devices from the App Lab," Microsoft explained. Teams Premium licensing will be needed, too.
Microsoft includes protections against impersonations in Mesh for Teams. Here's how that works, per the spokesperson:
- To protect against impersonation, avatars are secured with a user's Entra ID (Formerly Azure Active Directory) and users must be authenticated to their Microsoft 365 tenant in order to create and use their avatar in meetings. The identity metadata secured by Entra ID is integrated into meetings, just like it is in Teams, Outlook, or other Microsoft applications.
- In a 2D Teams meeting, avatars will have the name associated with their AAD identity in the bottom left corner of their video window. In a 3D immersive space, avatars will have the name associated with their AAD identity floating above their head.
Microsoft Mesh previewed in October for Teams Premium subscribers. Back then, Microsoft had indicated that Teams Premium licensing, along with Microsoft 365 licensing, would be required to use Mesh.
The spokesperson clarified that with the general availability release of Mesh, organizations will need Teams Premium licensing to use customized immersive spaces commercially.
Customized immersive spaces in Microsoft Mesh will be available to organizations who have the Teams Premium license. There is a six-month trial available for Microsoft Mesh accessible from the trial link in the Microsoft Mesh homepage or within the Microsoft 365 Admin Center. The Microsoft Mesh trial requires only an active Microsoft 365 or Teams business plan.
Mesh for PCs and Headsets
Mesh is coming to PCs, but it'll just be viewable in a two-dimensional form. Users can get a 3D experience if they use a virtual reality headset. Here's the rollout, per the spokesperson:
Mesh is actually available using a PC as of today. Mesh is also available on Quest VR devices, with the Mesh app becoming available in the Quest app store tomorrow.
However, "HoloLens 2 is not currently a supported device" the spokesperson indicated, regarding Mesh support using Microsoft's own mixed reality headset.
A Bumpy Road
Mesh was a highlighted item during Microsoft's 2021 Ignite event, but it's had a somewhat bumpy ride since that time in getting to the general availability stage.
Many of Microsoft's mixed or augmented reality efforts were cut back or eliminated in 2023, such as the Microsoft Mixed Reality Toolkit, which Microsoft released as an open source project, and the Azure Kinect camera-sensor device, which was dropped by Microsoft even though it's used with HoloLens 2.
Microsoft also axed its AltspaceVR team, and it cut back its Industrial Metaverse Core team in 2023. Microsoft did make a statement last year, though, that it was still committed to HoloLens 2, Microsoft Mesh and its industrial metaverse products, following its personnel cuts.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.