Worried that Facebook will keep the much-hyped metaverse all to itself? Microsoft has something to say about that. The tech giant announced during its Ignite conference that it’s building its version of the metaverse, with a big focus on work and corporate applications, Bloomberg reports.
Microsoft is currently preparing an alternate version of its Microsoft Teams chat software that will let employees use digital avatars and share Microsoft Office files, like Spreadsheets, in a virtual world. That’s due out in the latter half of 2022.
Using its new Mesh technology, Microsoft is also working towards enabling shareable virtual worlds across multiple VR and AR headsets, including Microsoft’s own HoloLens. Employees without VR/AR headsets will still be able to access these virtual worlds on regular 2D monitors.
The corporate focus doesn’t stop at meetings, though. Microsoft also announced a product called Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces that allows users to move through virtual recreations of stores and facilities. It’s not an entirely novel idea in the world of VR and AR tech (the tech has existed for several years in one form or another), but Microsoft executives like CEO Satya Nadella tells Bloomberg they had used Dynamics to visit a hospital’s COVID ward, a Toyota plant, and the International Space Station in VR.
In a world where Epic Games seems to be ahead of the metaverse pack with Fortnite’s growing success, Xbox isn’t escaping Microsoft’s metaverse plans either.
“You can absolutely expect us to do things in gaming,” Nadella said. “If you take Halo as a game, it is a metaverse. Minecraft is a metaverse, and so is Flight Sim. In some sense, they are 2D today, but the question is, can you now take that to a full 3D world, and so we absolutely plan to do so.”
It all raises an obvious question for tech giants like Microsoft and Facebook: If the metaverse is meant to be one immense, interconnected virtual space where brands, creators, and individual users can cohabitate, how will it work if every company wants to build its own metaverse, especially with their own software as the proprietary tool? Microsoft is focused (for now) on how the metaverse can be utilized in a profit-driven corporate sense, while Facebook and Epic appear to be focused on building a new type of social network, albeit one that’s still interfacing with their brands.
Facebook is of course going all in on the metaverse, rebranding itself under a new parent company simply called “Meta.” The rebranding has largely been seen as a move to both distance Facebook from solely a social media company to a more encompassing tech corporation, as well as a way to distance the company from numerous controversies, including a recent (and massive) leak of internal documents showing the company allegedly dodging responsibility for harm the company has caused with its products.
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Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer/not looking forward to the Slack metaverse…for IGN.