🥽 At its Ignite event this week, Microsoft generated its usual handful of headlines. The company announced
Loop, an app that combines a “flexible canvas” with collaborative components that sync across Microsoft 365 services (the internet couldn’t decide if Loop was a Notion clone or a Google Wave ripoff), launched
new Dynamics 365 offerings, promised
to integrate its recently-acquired video editing web app Clipchamp into Office and add an audio “recording studio” to PowerPoint, invited
select businesses to use GPT-3 as an Azure tool, and released
Edge for Linux to all users.
Most importantly though, Microsoft shared
plans to bring its mixed reality platform Mesh to Teams in the first half of 2022, with 3D avatars and VR support to boot. The company said Mesh for Teams would “evolve over time as sensor technology improves across devices from phones to virtual reality headsets, from laptops with a single microphone to a HoloLens with six microphones and 16 cameras.
” While we saw plenty of 3D avatar and VR examples, Microsoft didn’t show off HoloLens working with Teams. That’s a bummer; AR is exactly the technology that could break through the physical limitations of video calls.
Using HoloLens so your meeting happens in your home office or the factory floor presumably isn’t ready yet, so Microsoft left that part to the imagination. It would have worked, too, had the company stopped there.
Instead, Microsoft started mumbling about the metaverse:
Let’s start by defining the term, and no, it is not the metaverse first imagined by Neal Stephenson in 1992’s “Snow Crash.” Instead, it is a persistent, digital world that is connected to many aspects of the physical world, including people, places and things. The metaverse enables shared experiences across both the physical and digital worlds. As enterprises accelerate their digital transformation, the metaverse can help people meet up in a digital environment, make meetings more comfortable with the use of avatars and facilitate creative collaboration from all around the world.
The Microsoft Cloud provides a comprehensive set of resources designed to power metaverses – there will be more than one! – IoT capabilities that enable customers to create “digital twins” of physical objects in the cloud; utilizing Microsoft Mesh to build a shared sense of presence on devices; and using AI-powered resources to create natural interactions through speech and vision machine learning models.
Right in the first sentence, Microsoft made clear that it is not talking about the metaverse as science fiction fans know the term. A bunch of PR mumbo jumbo followed, and then Microsoft admitted it expects there to be multiple metaverses, which of course defeats the whole purpose.
Think about what Xbox Live did for gaming — we went from single player to multiplayer, creating communities that helped people connect and achieve together. Now just imagine if the same thing happened with mixed reality.
But that was before the tech world became obsessed with the metaverse as an all-encompassing synonym for “futuristic.” This week, Nadella implied that any game is also a metaverse:
If you take Halo as a game, it is a metaverse. Minecraft is a metaverse, and so is Flight Sim. In some sense, they’re 2D today, and the question is can you now take that to a full 3D world, and we absolutely plan to do so.
Halo is a multiplayer game. Minecraft has metaverse elements to be sure, but Flight Sim is a flight simulator game.
The metaverse is not a generic descriptor for any 3D world that you can think of. The metaverse describes what could be the next iteration of the internet in which you can navigate a 3D avatar of yourself between different experiences, from games to work to anything else you may want to do virtually. Because the metaverse currently only exists in science fiction, the biggest challenge is building a foundation so that everyone can build on top.
Instead, we have Microsoft slapping metaverse onto every property it owns and Meta happily bringing along its brand baggage, long before we have anything that resembles a metaverse.
Maybe Big Tech screwing up so early in the game will make room for the little guys to really build something that could succeed the internet as we know it.
📜 Microsoft warned
Windows 11 users that features including the Snipping Tool, touch keyboard, voice typing, emoji panel, and the getting started and tips sections, weren’t loading due to an expired certificate. While Microsoft eventually fixed
the problem, there is no excuse for this. An expired certificate should not disable features in an operating system. Microsoft needs to rework Windows 11 to ensure this can’t technically happen again.