Microsoft’s Ignite conference is taking place this week, and the company announced a slew of new features for Microsoft Teams, including a new mixed reality platform, new Teams Rooms devices and other new capabilities.
Most notably, the company introduced Mesh for Microsoft Teams, a new 2D and 3D meeting experience with personalized avatars and immersive spaces designed to bridge the gap between physical and digital worlds.
The feature, rolling out in early 2022, combines the mixed-reality capabilities for Microsoft Mesh with the productivity and collaboration tools of Microsoft Teams.
According to Microsoft, the feature builds on existing Teams features, such as Together mode and Presenter mode that are designed to make remote and hybrid meetings more collaborative and immersive.
Users can access Mesh for Teams on any laptops, smartphones or mixed-reality headsets to make virtual meetings – which Microsoft research has shown can cause burnout – more fun.
According to Microsoft, Mesh for Teams presents a “gateway to the metaverse – a persistent digital world that is inhabited by digital twins of people, places and things.”
“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,” the company said in a news release.
To start using Mesh for Teams, users will only need to join a standard Teams meeting as a customized avatar of themselves instead of a static picture or on video. Organizations can also build immersive spaces – metaverses – within Teams, the company says.
Users can then take their avatars into these spaces to “mix and mingle, collaborate on projects and experience those serendipitous encounters that spark innovation.”
Teams Rooms devices, features
Microsoft Teams Rooms continue to be a big part of Microsoft’s vision for its flagship collaboration platform, with new features and devices being released routinely.
According to Microsoft, audio manufacturer Sennheiser will join EPOS and Yealink in the intelligent speaker category with an AI-enabled speaker designed to medium-sized Teams Rooms with live transcription capabilities.
Microsoft also pointed to recently announced hardware bundles from HP that will work with Microsoft Teams Rooms, pending certification. That product line, HP Presence, includes a Mini PC, HP Presence Control Center, 4K AI cameras, an audio video bar and satellite microphones for larger rooms.
Microsoft is expanded its list of partners for Direct Guest Join to include BlueJeans and GoToMeeting, which allows users to join third-party meetings from Teams Rooms.
To ensure spaces are being maximized, Microsoft is enabling a way to check in on Teams Rooms from Crestron, Yealink and Logitech Teams panels and other devices. This allows users to check into the room by tapping a button on the panel or leaving it to occupancy sensors that will soon be able to integrate with Teams panels. If the room remains empty, it will be released for others to book.
Also detailed by Microsoft was its plans to expand the company’s portfolio of Teams displays for home offices and flexible workplaces. Upon certification, the Yealink deskVision AIO24 can be used as a standalone device for Teams collaboration or connected to a PC as a second screen.
Microsoft also says native Bluetooth capacity will enter preview early next year, allowing users to answer calls from a headset or use the Teams button for quick actions like joining a meeting.
The company also announced new webinar and broadcasting capabilities, new Chat features, security features and more.