In today’s flexible workforce, we are separated by space and time, relying on digital tools to help us collaborate and communicate with one another. The flexibility to work where and when we want has been a boon for many – but it has also resulted in a loss of vital human connections in the workplace. Microsoft’s Work Trends Index revealed that teams have become more siloed and remote employees feel more isolated at work after moving to flexible workstyles.
Rebuilding social capital is top of mind for workers and business decision-makers alike; 43% of leaders consider relationship-building to be the greatest challenge in flexible work. Just as technology helped us stay productive during the shift to remote, and now to flexible work – we see an opportunity to leverage technology to help us build thriving relationships with one another across distance.
Microsoft Mesh is a platform that powers shared immersive experiences, offering the flexible workforce a more natural way to connect with a sense of co-presence, and reduce the financial burden and environmental impact of travel and facilities. Mesh powers immersive experiences that we are integrating into Microsoft Teams, helping employees form personal connections where work happens. We are not only building experiences to help people foster connections in Microsoft Teams – we are also offering developers and creators a whole new opportunity to build custom experiences that help bring people together within an organization.
Today, we are excited to announce key milestones on the journey to bring Mesh to life – progress with the Mesh product as well as by early adopter customers. First, an update on the latest product news:
- Avatars for Microsoft Teams is rolling out to general availability in phases starting this week. It will be available to Microsoft 365 Enterprise E3, Microsoft 365 Enterprise E5, Microsoft 365 Business Standard, Microsoft 365 Business Premium, Teams Premium customers.
- Immersive spaces for Microsoft Teams is in private preview – available for Teams Technology Adoption Program (TAP) customers.
- The Mesh platform is available in private preview. Interested organizations and developers can register their interest here.
Fun and flexibility: Avatars for Microsoft Teams enliven meetings with personalized expression
Avatars for Teams offers an alternative to the current binary option of video or no video in Teams meetings. Customizable avatars and reactions give you a much-needed camera break while showing colleagues that you are present — encouraging engagement, collaboration, and fun. Include more people in the conversation — whether they need a break due to video fatigue, or just feel more comfortable with their video off. Avatars for Teams is generally available on the desktop Teams client for PC and Mac
and rolling out to tenants this week. Get started with avatars for Teams and learn how Microsoft employees are using avatars today.
Connect like never before with immersive spaces for Microsoft Teams
We are introducing a new way for people to connect using Microsoft Teams. The new immersive spaces for Teams lets you add an immersive experience to any Teams meeting, transforming your meetings with a sense of natural co-presence and togetherness regardless of where participants are located. Engage with others in a space that mimics many elements of an in-person interaction – like the ability to walk over to someone you want to catch up with, or to be in a space with multiple concurrent conversations without talking over one another. With spatial audio, you can experience sound as you would in an in-person setting. Immersive spaces for Teams can be accessed through PC or VR headsets and is available for Teams Technical Access Program (TAP) customers in private preview starting this week. Learn more here.
From employee onboarding to virtual museums: Mesh brings people together
In addition to lighting up immersive experiences into Microsoft Teams, Mesh enables organizations to build custom applications featuring environments designed to build connections between employees – for social gatherings, employee onboarding, townhalls, and more. We’re already seeing innovative early adopter customers unlocking the power of Mesh by creating custom solutions that go beyond the limitations of the physical world. We’re delighted to share highlights of some of these experiences.
Takeda is a global, values-based, R&D-driven biopharmaceutical leader, committed to discovering and delivering life-transforming treatments, guided by the commitment to patients, people, and the planet. As part of its efforts to unleash the power of data and digital, Takeda has been enabling personalized digital solutions to empower and connect people through innovative experiences.
Earlier in 2023, Takeda started exploring Microsoft Mesh to foster learning and collaboration while bridging the gap between office and remote workers. Takeda created multiple environments in Mesh, including the Hirameki Garden, a visual representation of the company’s corporate philosophy, where employees can immerse themselves in Takeda’s culture and business priorities, facilitating onboarding and promoting a sense of belonging. In addition, the company built a virtual museum where people can learn more about the business portfolio. Every exhibit features a patient story, reinforcing Takeda’s purpose of achieving “better health for people, brighter future for the world.”
“At Takeda, we are using innovative digital solutions to create a culture of collaboration and empowering our teams to work together in new and exciting ways”, says Leo Barella, Chief Technology in Data, Digital & Technology organization at Takeda. “We are excited about the vision for Microsoft Mesh to connect people to our company mission, our culture, and to one another, enabling our people to shape the future and drive better outcomes for our patients every day”.
Investing in a flexible and digital workspace will also support Takeda in attracting and onboarding talents globally, reducing real estate and travel investments, furthering their sustainability goals, and accelerating product innovation.
Takeda is one of many customers we are working with to test and learn as we build Mesh and Mesh-powered capabilities in Teams.
- Accenture is using Mesh to expand their One Accenture Park new joiner experience to elevate onboarding and train new employees worldwide – and has built several environments that simulate the real world, including an immersive office that replicates one in Sydney, Australia.
- DXC Technology is enhancing collaboration across remote work environments and enabling connections between employees using digital representations of existing physical workspaces built with Mesh.
- PwC is bringing employees together to build stronger company culture with immersive wellness experiences built using Mesh, including self-led and guided tours and orientations based on company intranet resources.
- Telefonica is helping employees connect in more social ways using virtual environments and immersive activities for social gatherings and team-building events.
- The World Economic Forum, in partnership with Microsoft and Accenture, has built the Global Collaboration Village to extend the Forum’s ability to connect with stakeholders worldwide to learn and collaborate together on global challenges.
Developers and Creators: Get immersed in Microsoft Mesh
How does Mesh make it possible to build these powerful experiences? Mesh provides core functionality for developers and creators to build custom environments that help people feel present and interact with one another. Mesh does the heavy lifting to enable environments and interactions to stay synchronized across participants’ devices so everyone who joins from PCs and VR headsets will share their experience at the same time. Avatars allow people to represent themselves and engage within the space. Experiences leverage spatial audio to mimic the directionality of sound in the real world, making experiences feel more realistic. And, because Mesh is built on Microsoft 365, identity management and enterprise-grade privacy and security are built-in.
With Mesh providing this foundation, developers and creators are freed up to add differentiated value, content, interactivity and magic to custom spaces using a set of tools that integrate with Unity. Mesh enables you to:
- Use Unity to Create new 3D environments or port existing ones into your space.
- Use cloud scripting to add interactivity by inserting logic, integrating with live backend business data, connecting triggers to actions, infusing AI, and more – all with the full power of C# and .NET Core.
- Enrich the user experience by integrating interactive content such as videos from the web.
- Use physics tools in Mesh to assign properties to objects in your space using gravity or buoyancy. Design how objects behave with each other and when users interact with them. Create a realistic experience or enable more fantastical interactions for games, challenges, and endless creativity.
- Diagnose potential issues and bring more polish to the experience with performance tools in Mesh.
Mesh also provides advanced event management capabilities to enable the creation, customization, and production of rich immersive experiences. Mesh can host large events by mirroring the content and experience across a set of smaller groups, so attendees can have a shared experience in one environment. Mesh’s event production tools enable organizers to orchestrate the experience in real-time by facilitating presentations, transporting users within environment, and triggering content and animations. With these capabilities, you can deliver internal corporate events, interactive learning, new employee onboarding, product simulations and showcases, guided tours, and more.
Customers and partners who would like to be a part of our journey and learn more about Mesh or register interest in the Mesh private preview, please visit our webpage.