Ugh. The Metaverse. Have you ever heard such dystopian misery. I’m planning to watch Surrogates this weekend just to complete the sense of dread. There is some good news to come from all this though as Microsoft has now also entered the race to compete in virtual worlds as virtual versions of ourselves. Why’s that good you say? Well, imagine not having to worry about turning your camera on in Microsoft Teams when dying hungover. What a time to be alive.
Microsoft Teams Avatars Coming In 2022
Microsoft Teams hit a meteoric rise in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. While Zoom might be the first name to come to mind, Teams offers a complete collaborative workspace that companies really bought into. Microsoft has been scrambling to improve Teams in an effort to translate the physical office into a digital world. When you step back, there’s not much difference between what Microsoft is doing with Hololens and what Meta is building with Oculus.
As part of this roadmap, Teams will introduce avatars in 2022. I know of countless people who hate popping their camera on and avatars offer a fun alternative to engaging with colleagues and removing the need to live stream yourself.
Speaking to The Verge Katie Kelly, principal product manager for Microsoft Mesh explains that avatars are “not binary, so I can choose how I want to show up, whether it’s video or an avatar, and there’s a variety of customized options to choose how you want to be present in a meeting”. Avatars will also be smart enough to pick up on your verbal cues, reacting and displaying appropriate emotions to match.
The Professional Metaverse
While many people, myself included, will be somewhat resistant to Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a virtual world, the idea of a professional metaverse is much more appetising. Remote working, almost overnight, became normal for office workers in Ireland and around the world. Sure enough, some companies continue to resist the idea, but the majority have seen value in leaning into the trend. Employee morale can be greatly improved by offering remote working, owing in no small part to better work-life balance and reduced commute times.
There are also financial savings for employers. This is good news for the professional metaverse as employers can do the maths and fund the expensive hardware remote teams require to connect. The Hololens costs just over €3000, but in a world where your office is based in a professional metaverse, this would simply become an expected hardware expense, like laptops in general.
There’s a long way to go, but remote working could be the metaverse we all actually want and need.
Regardless, the good news is that if you use Microsoft Teams, in 2022 you’ll be able to join meetings with an avatar and not have to give your room that panicked tidy up at the last minute before a meeting.