At Microsoft's Ignite digital conference, the software giant unveiled Microsoft Mesh: an evolution of its augmented reality vision, which brings the technology to movie-like levels.
Microsoft also revealed "holoportation," in which a 3D render of a person can beam into a virtual room. This means that users can see virtual renderings of people in their living rooms, even if those people are thousands of miles away.
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This is an area of innovation that Microsoft refers to as "mixed-reality." The company's Azure cloud-computing service takes on the computational brunt to render people virtually from wherever they are.
“This has been the dream for mixed reality, the idea from the very beginning,” said Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman in a company blog post (opens in new tab). “You can actually feel like you’re in the same place with someone sharing content or you can teleport from different mixed reality devices and be present with people even when you’re not physically together.”
While the video above gives an simulated version of what Microsoft Mesh could look like, the one below featuring Kipman shows more raw streaming footage. While the 3D models might not look cinematically perfect, it's a highly impressive demo nonetheless.
What's cool is that Mesh users don't all need to own Hololens 2 headsets to take advantage of this feature. Traditional VR headsets users can also jump into Mesh environments using cartooned avatars of themselves.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's especially difficult for designers to work together in the same room when working on complex machinery. In a Microsoft demo, users walk around virtual representations of a car's frame and internals to collaborate more easily. The closest fictional equivalent would be Tony Stark's lab in the Iron Man films.
Microsoft posits that just about any industry can make use of this technology, from architecture to medicine.
Microsoft did not give an exact release date for Mesh. The company will open up a full suite of AI-powered tools for developers in the coming months. It's likely that Microsoft will prioritize industrial applications first, before rolling Mesh out to general consumers.
And it does seem that Microsoft has general users in mind. Along with footage of doctors and researchers using Mesh, the company was keen to also show off what Pokémon Go could look like using the technology. It would surely have the potential to take open-world gaming to the next level.