While many organizations are pushing for their employees to return to offices, Microsoft suggests trying a new type of "hybrid" working. The company has announced the launch of Microsoft Mesh, a feature that lets employees' avatars meet in the same place, even if the actual people are spread out. The virtual connection platform is powered through Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft has tested out Mesh on companies like consulting firm Accenture and pharmaceutical-focused Takeda. "The world of work continues to evolve at a rapid pace, but the importance of human connection has never gone away. Lunchtime conversations, hallway catch-ups, coffee chats — they often hold the key to both workplace success and employee happiness," Takeda's chief technology officer Leo Barella explained in a statement. He claims their meetings have been "more collaborative and immersive."
Mesh provides a series of pre-made spaces that companies can customize with everything from informational videos to logos — without needing to enter any code. The Mesh toolkit works through Unity, Microsoft's 2D and 3D development platform, to tailor the virtual world further. Basically, if there's a retreat an employer has always wanted to take everyone, they can create a version of it and invite everyone's avatars.
Currently, Microsoft's Mesh is only available on desktop PCs and Meta Quest VR devices (if employees want a more immersive experience). Microsoft is offering a six-month free trial to anyone with a business or enterprise plan. Otherwise, prices range from $4 per user monthly for Microsoft Teams Essentials all the way up to $57 per user monthly for Microsoft 365 E5.