Microsoft steps up push to bring virtual reality to the masses | Tech News

Microsoft steps up push to bring virtual reality to the masses

Software giant unveils developer tools to make it easier and cheaper to create VR, AR content.

By:BLOOMBERG
| Updated on: Aug 21 2022, 15:34 IST
Microsoft Mesh, a new mixed reality platform, will allow geographically distributed teams to meet and collaborate in shared mixed reality sessions where participants appear as digital representations of themselves.
Microsoft Mesh, a new mixed reality platform, will allow geographically distributed teams to meet and collaborate in shared mixed reality sessions where participants appear as digital representations of themselves. (Microsoft)

Microsoft Corp. unveiled software tools designed to make it easier and less expensive for people to access virtual reality and augmented reality content, and for more creators to build these digital and holographic worlds.

The company's Mesh software will enable users to work and play together virtually by interacting with the same set of holograms on devices at various price points and from different manufacturers, ranging from Microsoft's $3,500 HoloLens augmented reality goggles and Facebook Inc.'s Oculus and other specialized VR headsets to cell phones and computers where users can get a two-dimensional view. Mesh also lets multiple people see the same holograms from different locations, allowing for events such as concerts or company meetings where one user attends in person and the other “holoports in” from home.

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“You can be anywhere as a hologram or an avatar, and it's not just you,” Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said in an interview. “You now have not just yourself but all of your co-workers or your friends with you and you can do things together, not just with real objects, but with holograms.”

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Mesh also uses spatial sound to change the audio based on where holograms and people participating are located, giving the user a sense of space in the virtual world. A friend sitting beside another friend's hologram in a work meeting or at a concert can whisper to their neighbor, for example. 

Hānai World, a new company from Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté, plans to use Mesh to create entertainment events that mix live and virtual aspects. The events will take place in physical venues and through mixed reality headsets, with previews starting at the end of the year. Ray Dalio's marine science nonprofit OceanX will use the technology to create a holographic table on ships that scientists can gather around, in person or remotely, to view three-dimensional holograms of exploration areas, and Accenture Plc has created a virtual headquarters to bring in new employees and help with connections during the pandemic.

While Mesh makes creating these programs easier, there's still more work to be done in complex scenarios. For example,  to broadcast a DJ set or a concert, developers would have to place sensors around the performers' space to capture the 3-D experience. That's why sports programming is still a way off, Kipman said — it would require sensor tracking on too many players and too large a space.

Nadella plans to keep investing in VR and AR, likening it to Microsoft's decision 10 years ago to go “all in” on cloud computing, which took a while to pay off. 

“That's what it takes,” he said. “I don't think about this as, ‘oh, it's about HoloLens,' I think of this as Microsoft should — and the industry should — continue to push on how can people communicate, collaborate and build community, whether it's for work or for play.”

By Dina Bass

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First Published Date: 03 Mar, 07:51 IST
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