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Are You Ready For The Holographic World Of Work?


Isadora Teich wrote this article


A few years ago, remote work was seen as a luxury and even an impossibility by most corporations and companies.

While this has changed a lot naturally over the last five years as technology advances, it was also accelerated by the pandemic. Currently, many of the world’s biggest businesses are embracing working from home.

Many companies are switching to incorporate more work from home options, and some newer companies are structuring their entire business around being remote first.

Companies like Coinbase, Dropbox, Microsoft, and Facebook will allow either all or a large portion of their employees to work from home forever.

We Need New Tools For A New World Of Work

It is no secret that the current tools available for virtual collaboration are just not cutting it.

Zoom fatigue was one of the biggest buzzwords of 2020. Researchers at top universities are even investigating it. While studies show that people who work from home are often more productive and engaged, many businesses are struggling to employ the right tools for digital collaboration in the right way.

However, this is not the fault of employers, workers, or app developers.

Zoom was not designed as an app where users are supposed to spend hours a day in classes or doing work. It was initially not integrated into a whole platform meant to replace the office, and has been forced to become a part of that in extreme circumstances.

Many businesses are juggling applications like Asana, Nifty, Zoom, Skype, Slack, GoToMeeting, and others for the first time.

So, what is the answer?

Microsoft Has A Potential Solution

It was inevitable that either new tools would be invented, or existing ones would be upgraded. Right now is actually an incredibly exciting time to be in the business of apps, because there has not yet been one clear cut tool or series of tools to dominate the market. We are still in the early days and anything is possible.

In response to a working world with new needs, Microsoft is working on Microsoft Mesh, a mixed reality platform powered by Azure which will allow developers to build apps quickly and easily for cross-platform remote meetings.

So, I just threw a lot of words at you, but what would that actually look like in practice? Journalist D. Hardawar described his experience using Microsoft Mesh for Engadget:

Last week, I sat around a table with fellow journalists as Greg Sullivan, Microsoft’s head of Mixed Reality, detailed the company’s vision for the future of virtual collaboration. Nobody was wearing masks or standing apart. We weren’t worried about getting sick. Instead, we were all wearing HoloLens 2 headsets and sitting in different parts of the world. The holographic table was right beside my actual desk, and my media pals were floating around my office as we chatted with our cartoonish avatars. For a second, it felt like mingling in real life during the Before Times.

Are Holographic Meetings The Future?

Currently there are a few reasons why people find virtual meetings difficult that high quality full body avatars would fix. This is a big part of why this is such an attractive solution. A while back, we wrote an in-depth post on why so many people find the current digital meeting infrastructure challenging.

In short, it does not create an atmosphere where people can interact naturally.

You feel like everyone is constantly staring at you up close, which would never happen in the course of a natural in-person conversation, and this can trigger anxiety. Also, so much of communication is non-verbal. Naturally we get a lot of information from body language. On a video call, you lose access to all of that.

With complete virtual 3D holographic avatars, you don’t have those issues.

Where Does Microsoft Mesh Stand Now?

Millions of Zoomed out people around the world would probably jump at the chance to upgrade to something like this.

However, Microsoft Mesh is still in its demo phase, and not quite ready to be rolled out with the kind of photorealism that would make it a virtual work revelation. D. Hardawar said that the demo he experienced was more like visually being surrounded by “a bunch of Nintendo Miis.”

Microsoft Mesh still shows incredible promise.

One thing that sets it apart from other VR collaboration apps is its cross-device compatibility. It would be usable on any device, meaning that even phones and tablets could become windows which allow users to navigate 3D environments seamlessly. This could have far reaching impacts that transcend the office. It will likely be applied to things like gaming, medicine, industrial architecture, scientific research, the arts, and the event industry.

Something else to look out for is not just how Microsoft applies these tools, but how third-party developers make use of them and improve upon them. Microsoft says it is going to offer developers AI powered tools to help them deal with things like spatial rendering and holoportation.

Microsoft Ignite

Microsoft recently hosted Microsoft Ignite, an entirely virtual conference via holoportation, which uses 3D capture technology to beam a realistic image of a person into a virtual scene.

Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté appeared via holoportation, as did Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman, and famous director and ocean explorer James Cameron.

At Ignite, apps built entirely on the Microsoft Mesh platform for virtual collaboration were unveiled. Kipman called mixed reality “the next big medium for collaborative computing.” In fact, it is already being used to accomplish amazing things.

At Ignite, OceanX, a nonprofit that combines science with storytelling and technology to support ocean education, announced a new collaboration with Microsoft.

Together, they will create a Mesh-enabled “holographic laboratory” on their research ship. In it, scientists can gather virtually from around the globe to see 3D holograms of the areas they explore.

Final Thoughts

From the office to the depths of the ocean, holographic collaboration technology has the power to transform our world. What comes next is anyone’s guess.

Are you excited for the holographic office?

Talk to me. 

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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