Microsoft Mesh is a hologram-filled dream of every sci-fi fan

Here can be anywhere: that’s what Microsoft claimed at their Ignite conference. The tech giant introduced Mesh, a mixed reality platform that transports people to a whole new world that groups can share. You could swim with majestic whales from the safety of your living room or walk through a house that wasn’t built yet. Got a colleague on another side of the world? No problem, now, you can sit next to each other in a virtual office.

The definition of reality just got a whole lot more ambiguous.

A whole new world

In Mixed Reality (MR), the real and virtual worlds coexist and create a brand new place. Essentially, while immersed in MR, you are neither in the physical or virtual world but somewhere in between. 

On top of that, you can interact with objects you’ll encounter there, whether they are physical or virtual. As MR diminishes the difference between real and imaginary, it differentiates from augmented reality. AR only overlays digital information on real-world elements. 

As Simon Skaria, co-creator of Microsoft Mesh explained, we’re already familiar with the “beginner” version of mixed reality. Remember the Pokémon Go mania that made millions of people walk around cities and parks? People were obsessed, finding the little creatures jumping on the phone screen. Maybe you’ve tried on glasses online before you bought them. Or you’ve checked out whether that extravagant armchair will fit into your apartment through an app. 

With Mesh, you can enter the mixed reality either as your lifelike, photorealistic self or create an avatar. Whatever the shape, you can move through this new world, interact with others and solve problems together. 

Microsoft encourages developers to start building with Mesh, and they already introduced their first Mesh-enabled projects. First is an app for HoloLens that will foster remote collaboration. Another project is AltspaceVR, which will let companies hold meetings, town halls, and work gatherings in virtual reality. It’s possible to use Mesh even without a headset – users can join with their PC or a phone without the complete immersion. 

Strolling through mixed reality

Remote work is here to stay, and holoportation can solve the disadvantage of distance. Employees working from anywhere can sit side by side, make small talk, and exchange ideas wherever they are. Team meetings and workshops will feel like in-person learning, but without the hassle and travel costs. And if someone needs an urgent consultation that requires a 3D experience? That’s entirely possible. 

Architects will walk through their buildings and prevent mistakes. Doctors can practice complex surgeries before cutting anyone open. Engineers will build the cars and machines in mixed reality before they touch any of the actual parts. As presented at Ignite, Mesh can do wonders for research as well. The company partnered up with OceanX to create a Mesh-enabled “holographic laboratory” on its research ship OceanXplorer. “The idea is to take all this amazing scientific data we’re collecting and bring it into a holographic setting and use it as a way to guide scientific missions in real time,” said Vincent Pieribone, vice chairman of OceanX.

Mixed reality will also be about fun, and Ignite conference gave some hints. For example, Alex Kipman’s presentation showed a family standing at the bottom of the ocean, watching whales and manta rays swimming around them. Groups will not only see the same surroundings, but they can contribute their ideas into the holographic scene. As Kipman notes, that has never been done before.

Gaming should be another exciting chapter, although we haven’t heard much about it yet. However, Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, seems to have plans with mixed reality. As they have already announced a collaboration with Microsoft Mesh, gamers should stay alert for updates. 

A whole army of developers will surely roam the world of mixed reality, with many more surprises to come. One thing’s for sure – if leveraged well, we will overcome obstacles such as distance and the need for physical presence.

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