Microsoft (MSFT) integrates Metaverse into its software

Days after Facebook, Inc. (FB) a name change to Meta Platforms, Inc. and announcing a pivot of social media to the metaverse, Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) launched the first iteration of its business metaverse. At the company’s Ignite conference, Microsoft advertised a slew of features to integrate the concept into its products.

Key learning points

  • Microsoft is integrating the metaverse concept into its existing applications and software, the company announced at its Ignite 2021 conference.
  • Microsoft’s Teams software will launch sometime in the first half of next year with AI-enabled avatars and immersive workspaces.
  • With Microsoft Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces, companies can recreate their workplace and factory floors to enable virtual meetings.
  • According to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, the pandemic shutdown made commercial matters more mainstream for the metaverse.

Teams, Microsoft’s video conferencing and collaboration software, will feature immersive corporate virtual meeting spaces and artificial intelligence avatars that synchronize lip movements and mimic hand and facial gestures. The avatars work in both 2D and 3D settings and integrate Microsoft Mesh, an application unveiled by the company earlier this year. Teams meeting participants can also share PowerPoint presentations and other Office artifacts.

The new 3D features, which will be accessible with Microsoft’s own HoloLens device and Facebook’s Oculus VR, are expected to be released in the first half of next year. Microsoft said its research showed that avatars created a sense of “presence” and kept employees from constantly appearing in front of the camera.

Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President Modern Work at the company, said the introduction of avatars “will be the first metaverse element that appears real.” While their integration “seems easy, it just seems like one step, but that’s the kind of step I think people are ready to take,” he said.

The company also integrated elements of the metaverse into Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces that enable virtual representations of corporate and factory spaces. “It’s no longer just looking at a factory floor, you can be on the floor,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Beer maker Anheuser-Busch Inbev SA (BUD) has used Microsoft software to mimic virtual simulations of its factory floors.

Spataro noted that the software may also have applications for shopping websites that are not currently “very well connected to the physical experience”. Spataro gave an example, explaining, “You could experience a Best Buy store in the metaverse, for example.”

Microsoft and the Metaverse

Microsoft has been an early mover in the metaverse, revealing devices over the years that improve upon the concept and include elements in its offerings. For example, the cloud offering Azure already has an Azure Digital Twin feature that enables modeling and simulation of real physical spaces. Accenture plc. (ACN) has created a digital twin of its headquarters to carry out its new employee orientations. During Tuesday’s presentation, Leena Nair, chief human resources officer at consumer goods giant Unilever PLC (UL), also illustrated the ways her company uses Microsoft software to conduct global employee orientations.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Bloomberg Television that the pandemic shutdown has made commercial use cases for the metaverse more mainstream. According to him, the consumer applications of the metaverse will take time and feel like science fiction. But the business use cases are now available.

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