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Virtual Avatars May Come To Microsoft Teams This Year

Image Source: DANIEL CONSTANTE / Shutterstock

With more and more of us working from home in the post-pandemic era, it is no wonder that video-conferencing apps and services like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are booming and constantly trying to get one over on each other. Recently, Microsoft made move with Teams by introducing the ability to use virtual avatars in the place of video of yourself when on a call. Now Zoom has responded with its own version of the feature. Let’s take a look at both offerings.

Virtual Avatars on Microsoft Teams

The feature, which has been available for members of the Technical Access Program since late last year introduced the ability for users to design their own avatars to use in their stead when on Teams video calls. They work using Microsoft’s Mesh feature set, which has been designed to give users presence and shared experiences from anywhere.

Mesh is supposed to be a big-ticket metaverse effort from Microsoft that the company hopes will help spur user creativity by allowing them to connect with “new depth and dimension”. The technology looks interesting too, although it is eerily similar to Meta’s efforts in this regard too, right down to the floating bodies not having legs. You can check it out here.

There is an element here, that Microsoft is leaning into of blurring the lines between the virtual world and the real world by allowing real workers to present themselves virtually with dynamic avatars on screen. However, it remains to be seen just how well it will go down when if you turn up to an important meeting and put across your perspective while displayed as a virtual character.

Virtual Avatars on Zoom

The first thing that needs to be said about Zoom’s version of virtual avatars, which is the newer version, is that it doesn’t look as good as Microsoft’s effort. Interestingly, however, the Zoom blog post, which has recently announced the launch of the feature uses similar language to Microsoft’s blog post from last November. The idea behind it is that it will allow users to be more “dynamic”, “fun”, “flexible”, and “present”.

Of course, ridiculous corporate speak aside, there are plenty of good reasons that people may not want to show their real face and location when involved in video conferences. For example, there could be distracting actions taking place in the background, they could be embarrassed about their appearance for some reason, or maybe they are just very private. For example, when using these types of tools in education, there may be socioeconomic issues to take into account, with students not wanting to give away too much information about their background to other students, if it could open them up to bullying.

In fact, it is education where these types of features make more sense. Engaging, dynamic, flexible, and fun sound like key aspects of good lessons in school but sound nothing like something you would want an important board meeting to be.

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Image Source: DANIEL CONSTANTE / Shutterstock

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