Microsoft will use audio cues to animate avatars in an upcoming 2022 release of its Mesh For Teams software, and it’ll allow employees to represent themselves as avatars during meetings.
The new features should launch as a preview of the Mesh for Teams software in the first half of 2022.
“Sometimes I just want to be able to sit in my chair downstairs and have my heat pad on, but maybe it’s not that appropriate,” said Katie Kelly, a principal project manager at Microsoft working on Mesh for Teams, in a prepared statement. “I’d love to be able to turn on my avatar. I’m still present and engaged, and the people that are there feel like I’m present and engaged.”
Meetings may show a personalized avatar, a live video, a static picture, or a bubble with initials. The system will add animations and expressivity to the avatars based on audio in the initial release, but “the ambition is to closely follow that with Microsoft’s plethora of AI technologies so that we can use the camera to insinuate where your mouth is and mimic your head and facial movements,” Kelly said.
The move closely resembles how Meta’s Horizon Workrooms system bridges headsets and flat screens. Last year, Apple acquired the startup Spaces which had arrived at a similar solution for remote work.