Introduced at the Microsoft Ignite event for 2023, Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces have the potential to change the way we work and collaborate forever.
Created as part of Microsoft’s ongoing strategy to provide businesses with tools that boost engagement and inclusivity, Immersive Spaces are a new way to synchronize staff for the future of work. Infusing Microsoft Mesh, Microsoft’s extended reality platform, with Azure technologies, Immersive Spaces allows companies to create and explore custom virtual workspaces.
Businesses can use the technology to build three-dimensional spaces where team members can interact through digital avatars, share knowledge, and leverage co-presence benefits.
According to Microsoft, the offering addresses companies’ ongoing issues when embracing remote and hybrid work. Around 43 percent of business leaders now say they struggle to build and preserve employee relationships as workforces grow more distributed.
Here’s everything you need to know about Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces and how they can empower, align, and support today’s teams.
What is Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces?
Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces are three-dimensional environments where team members can share information, represent themselves with customizable avatars, and simulate face-to-face interactions. They bring the power of “Mesh,” Microsoft’s XR solution, into the Teams workplace, allowing users to transform virtual meetings into metaverse experiences.
In an era defined by flexible work, the demand for “immersive collaboration” solutions is growing. Teams distributed in hybrid and remote workforces still need to connect with their colleagues in a productive, agile environment to enable constant innovation and growth.
Since the pandemic, 92 percent of HR experts believe immersive technology, such as metaverse environments and extended reality tools, is crucial to aligning teams. With Immersive spaces, users can achieve new levels of “co-presence” by interacting via avatars regardless of whether they’re using the standard Teams app or connecting through a Quest headset.
According to Microsoft, Immersive Spaces (Available as part of the Teams public preview program) help to enhance employee relationships and encourage creative, collaborative work. Microsoft believes these spaces will be ideal for:
- Weekly standups or scrum sessions with teams.
- Brainstorming sessions (with multiple breakout groups)
- Casual get-togethers, team-building exercises, and celebrations.
- Virtual networking opportunities.
- Onboarding and meet-and-greet sessions for new team members.
The Features of Immersive Spaces on Teams
Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces is one of the core components of the tech giant’s comprehensive strategy to make digital workplaces more engaging and collaborative. In recent years, the company has introduced various solutions for immersive collaboration, now available in the Immersive Spaces landscape. For instance, users can access:
Impressive 3D environments
In the past, features like Microsoft’s “Together Mode” for Teams helped to promote feelings of inclusion in remote and hybrid meetings, with a shared sense of presence. Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces takes this concept to a new level.
Users can access ready-made virtual environments to suit their specific purpose, whether a large gathering or an informal discussion. Users can move around these spaces using their VR headsets or computer keyboards.
Building on the spatial capabilities introduced for Teams, Immersive spaces will enhance communication with carefully-positioned audio signals.
Microsoft is even using “spatial audio zones.” This ensures multiple staff members can collaborate in simultaneous breakout sessions and discussions without interrupting other groups. These zones allow users to walk around different parts of a 3D space and participate in various conversations.
Customizable 3D avatars
Introduced as part of Microsoft Mesh, Teams virtual avatars allow users to create digital versions of themselves for participation in immersive meetings. Users can use their existing 2D avatars for Microsoft Teams or create new avatars for Immersive Spaces.
Today, users have more opportunities to customize their avatars to suit their specific needs, with options to change appearances, outfits, and more based on need or mood.
Live reactions and emojis
Like in standard Microsoft Teams meetings and presentations, users can express themselves using live emojis, such as the “heart” or “thumbs up” reaction. This gives Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces members a unique way to respond to information without interrupting presenters.
Users can access live reactions, emojis, and other meeting tools within their dashboard on Microsoft Teams and through the Quest VR headset dashboard.
Business leaders and individual employees will have the opportunity to choose specific seating positions during an immersive session. Users joining Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces through Teams or using a VR headset can control their position in any environment.
Additionally, people can move around at will within an immersive room, walking to other team members, standing up or sitting down when necessary, and more.
Team bonding activities
To help strengthen team relationships and boost workplace inclusivity, Microsoft has introduced a variety of “activities” for Immersive Spaces. As well as participating in standard meetings and presentations, teams can enjoy built-in games.
These games and activities include everything from quiz-style icebreaker experiences to the option to roast virtual marshmallows with team members.
Building Custom Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces
Just as Microsoft has pre-built solutions for virtual backgrounds and “Together Mode” sessions, there are also templates available for Immersive Spaces. However, users will also be able to build and customize their own immersive meeting spaces with Mesh.
Event organizers and business leaders can use the “no code editor” within the Mesh menu bar to adjust immersive spaces based on their needs. You can customize spaces with 3D canvases, videos, images, and screen-sharing components. There’s also the option to set videos to loop on-demand.
Once you customize a space, you can save the new environment as a template for anyone in your organization. This can enable teams to build interactive environments for guided tours, training sessions, internal product showcases, and events.
To take customization options even further, the Microsoft Mesh SDK for Unity will enable organizers and creators to design advanced 3D interactions and assets. There’s also the option to use data connections via Mesh to bring live and historical data sources into your Immersive landscapes.
Microsoft has noted that all Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces will share the same top-tier security and encryption standards across its technology ecosystem.
Who Can Access Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces?
Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces are available via the Teams Public Preview program and Teams Technology Adoption Program. Users can access the spaces through the Teams desktop app (the Classic version only), for Windows, or through a Quest device.
Currently, Immersive Spaces aren’t supported on the Teams for Web, Teams mobile, or Teams apps for Mac. Additionally, users will need one of the following licenses to access Immersive Spaces: Microsoft 365 E3/E5, Office 365 E1/E3/E5, Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Standard or Premium, or Teams Essentials.
Microsoft advises administrators to ensure Mesh solutions are available to their team by ensuring all endpoints are allowed via your proxy or firewall server. You may also need to create or edit app permission policies to allow or block the experience for specific groups.
Admins can do this by logging into the Teams admin portal, clicking on “Teams apps” in the left panel, followed by “Permissions Policies.” Click “add” to create a new App permission policy, and search for “Mesh Immersive Spaces.”
Using Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces
There are two ways for users to access Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces. Users can join or create an Immersive Space using the standard Microsoft Teams app or a Quest headset.
Notably, organizers can schedule events using existing templates or create a fresh template within Mesh. Additionally, attendees can discover “Mesh events” within their Teams and Outlook calendars, just like a standard meeting.
Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces within Teams
The Mesh for Teams experience and Immersive Spaces don’t require users to have a VR headset to get involved. Users on Teams’s “2D” version can still share avatars, interact with employees, and participate fully in meetings. You can start a scheduled meeting via the “Meet Now” button on Teams or Outlook and “Join” existing meetings.
To create an Immersive Space, users need to click on the “View” option in their meeting dashboard and select “Immersive Spaces.” This will launch a pre-join screen for Mesh for Teams. Up to 16 participants can join an Immersive Space.
Using Quest Devices for Immersive Spaces
Users with their Meta Quest virtual reality device can join meetings from their headset. Business leaders will need to ensure these devices are supported within the Teams admin centre. Employees can download the “Microsoft Mesh” app for Quest via the Meta App Lab.
Once installed, you can use the app dashboard to find and join meetings. Select “Teams” from the left-hand menu and choose “Join” or “Start Meeting.” Meeting controls will appear within the app bar for sharing content and reacting with emojis.
Unlocking New Levels of Immersive Collaboration
Available now in public preview mode, Microsoft Teams Immersive Spaces represents a new era of collaboration. Combining the power of Mesh for extended reality with Teams, Immersive Spaces brings employees together like never before.
Immersive Spaces empower companies to align their workforces, improve team relationships, and inspire new levels of creativity.