If you’re worried that the Metaverse is just fun and playful, fear not: Microsoft is coming, and it’s bringing PowerPoint and Teams.
The Redmond-based company is adapting its signature software products to create a more corporate version of the Metaverse, a concept promoted by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg that promises to enable users to live, work and play in interconnected virtual worlds.
The first offering, a version of the Microsoft Teams conferencing program featuring digital avatars, will be available in the first half of 2022. Customers will be able to share files and Office features, such as PowerPoint decks, in the virtual world.
“This pandemic has made business use cases much more common, even though consumer products sometimes look like science fiction,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. Nadella himself used the technology to visit a COVID-19 ward at a UK hospital, a Toyota manufacturing plant and even the International Space Station, he said.
The new Teams features, unveiled at the company’s Ignite conference on Tuesday, will allow businesses to create immersive spaces where workers can meet. The technology uses Microsoft software announced earlier this year called Mesh that enables augmented reality and virtual reality experiences on a variety of glasses, including Microsoft’s HoloLens. Customers who do not have a device capable of displaying 3D images can experience 2D content and avatars.
The metaverse – as a futuristic world where hip people recreate their entire lives online – is still a long way off. But commercial uses are starting to become available now, Nadella said.
Accenture used Microsoft software to create a “digital twin” of its corporate headquarters to organize referrals for new employees during the pandemic. The consulting firm has organized more than 100 such events, reaching more than 10,000 employees, said Microsoft vice president Jared Spataro.
Anheuser-Busch InBev has created copies of its brewing operations and supply chain that are in sync with actual facilities and based on up-to-date information. The system allows brewers to adapt to changing conditions and helps operators keep packaging machines running. Microsoft wants to sell more cloud software that allows customers ranging from retailers to manufacturers to do so.
“You could, for example, discover a Best Buy store in the Metaverse,” and check out displays and devices, Spataro said. “Today, when you think of a website, it is not very well connected to the physical reality of what we are going through. “
To that end, Microsoft also unveiled a product called Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces on Tuesday. It will allow people to move and interact in retail and factory spaces.
As Microsoft leads the way with enterprise apps for the Metaverse, expect its Xbox gaming platform to participate in the future, Nadella said.
“You can absolutely expect us to do things in the game,” he said. “If you take Halo as a game, it’s a metaverse. Minecraft is a metaverse, just like Flight Sim. In a sense, they’re in 2D today, but the question is whether you can bring that into a full 3D world now, and so we absolutely plan to do that.
Microsoft’s Metaverse apps will work with Oculus glasses made by Meta Platforms, formerly Facebook. But it is not yet clear how the visions of the metaverse of different companies will be able to connect. If, say, Nadella and Zuckerberg wanted to meet in the Metaverse, should they choose either Microsoft’s Teams or Meta’s Horizon Workroom?
Microsoft is focusing on the practical applications of the metaverse – ones with clear benefits, Nadella said. And it will help people get used to an idea that some critics call scary.
“There is nothing scary about visiting a COVID service remotely so that a doctor can help his patients, or to be able to provide remote assistance in a manufacturing line during a COVID crisis when that manufacturing line must be repaired by an engineer working from home, ”he said.
At the Ignite conference, Microsoft also announced Azure OpenAI, a cloud-based service that enables customers to use the system’s powerful artificial intelligence models. Teams features for working and chatting outside of a particular corporate network were also announced and Loop, a new app that runs across different programs to collect files, links, and data from other apps in one place. of work.