Ignite 2021: Microsoft Is Adding Avatars to Microsoft Teams

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 600 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse, its avatars, and all the companies building it. Come join us! More details here.


Hard on the heels of Facebook (now Meta) and their Connect 2021 event comes today’s Microsoft Ignite 2021, where Microsoft shows off some of the technology they’re working on. And, of course, give their own spin on the metaverse!

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella presents the company’s metaverse solutions

Here’s a seven-minute clip from Ignite of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talking about his vision for the metaverse:

Tom Warren of tech news website The Verge reports:

Microsoft is entering the race to build a metaverse inside Teams, just days after Facebook rebranded to Meta in a push to build virtual spaces for both consumers and businesses. Microsoft is bringing Mesh, a collaborative platform for virtual experiences, directly into Microsoft Teams next year. It’s part of a big effort to combine the company’s mixed reality and HoloLens work with meetings and video calls that anyone can participate in thanks to animated avatars.

With today’s announcement, Microsoft and Meta seem to be on a collision course to compete heavily in the metaverse, particularly for the future of work.

An example of a 3D avatar within Microsoft Teams (image source: Microsoft, from TheVerge)

And—if you’re having a bad hair day—hey, no worries!

Microsoft Teams will get new 3D avatars in a push toward a metaverse environment, and you won’t need to put a VR headset on to use them. These avatars can literally represent you both in 2D and 3D meetings, so you can choose to have an animated version of yourself if you’re not feeling like turning your webcam on.

Bloomberg reports that this new feature will be released next year:

If you’re worried the metaverse will be all fun and games, fear not: Microsoft Corp. is taking its own stab at the idea, and it will have PowerPoint and Excel.

The company is adapting its signature software products to create a more corporate version of the metaverse — a concept promoted by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg that promises to let users live, work and play within interconnected virtual worlds.

The first offering, a version of Microsoft’s Teams chat and conferencing program that features digital avatars, is in testing now and will be available in the first half of 2022. Customers will be able to share Office files and features, like PowerPoint decks, in the virtual world.

It would appear Microsoft’s avatars (like those in Meta’s Horizon Worlds and Horizon Workrooms) will lack legs (image source: Microsoft, via Bloomberg)

Of course, most people already know that Microsoft acquired the social VR platform AltspaceVR in 2017 (which, by the way, is still absolutely killing it with live events programming!). Altspace is being used for a variety of purposes, including higher education (for example, teaching a psychology course at Mount Royal University).

AltspaceVR (image source: VRFocus)

It looks like we will see more integration between established business software such as Microsoft Teams with concepts from the metaverse, including avatars, over the next twelve months. The era of avatarism appears to be in full swing!


Thanks to Rainwolf for the heads up!

Liked it? Then please consider supporting Ryan Schultz on Patreon! Even as little as US$1 a month unlocks exclusive patron benefits. Thank you!