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Microsoft unveils the ‘PowerPoint of mixed reality’

Microsoft has unveiled SharePoint spaces, a new creation tool for its SharePoint collaboration platform that has been instantly dubbed “the PowerPoint of mixed reality”.

With an announcement at the SharePoint Virtual Summit, streamed

live from the SharePoint Conference North America, the aim is to make mixed reality mainstream, with anyone able to create an MR experience within minutes on any device using any browser.

SharePoint spaces, which will be available in Office 365 commercial plans, provides templates that enable information workers to create mixed reality environments with point-and-click simplicity. Users can add 2D files, 3D video, documents and other data they are storing in SharePoint.

Writing on a Microsoft blog, Jeff Tepper, the company’s corporate vice president for OneDrive, SharePoint, and Office, said: “Today, we unveiled SharePoint spaces—immersive, mixed reality experiences—which enable you to view and interact with content from every angle and visualise and manipulate data and product models in realtime. SharePoint mainstreams mixed reality, empowering everyone to create visually compelling spaces that are available to anyone, on any device.”

Writing for the Engadget blog, technology columnist Devindra Hardaware, said: “It’s a lot like how PowerPoint made it easy for anyone to create business presentations. Sharepoint spaces features templates for things like a gallery of 3D models or 360-degree videos, all of which are viewable in mixed reality headsets (or any browser that supports WebVR). While they’re certainly not complex virtual environments, they’re still immersive enough to be used for employee training, or as a quick virtual catalogue for your customers.”

By making a mixed reality tool widely available Microsoft is reducing the need for organisations to develop complex and costly mixed reality apps for common business scenarios, and may even do away with the expense of rolling out costly headsets as the creations can also be viewed in web browsers. The company is predicting that its mixed reality creation tool will be used for recruitment and onboarding information, learning and development and product development.

Writing for ZD.Net’s All About Microsoft blog, technology journalist Mary Jane Foley said: “Usage scenarios including recruiting and onboarding, product development, and training/learning are more examples of how Microsoft is back to emphasising business-focused applications of HoloLens and mixed reality (after veering too far into pushing consumer applications of the technology).”

Writing at MSPowerUser, editor Pradeep Viswav, who is also technical lead at HCL Technologies in India, wrote: “While HoloLens is quite popular among some industry verticals, Windows Mixed Reality is relatively new for the enterprise market. With this announcement of SharePoint spaces, Microsoft mainstreams mixed reality for the enterprise.”

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced two mixed reality applications for business at the Microsoft Build conference. Microsoft Remote Assist is a HoloLens app that will help organisations collaborate remotely with heads-up, hands-free video calling using Microsoft Teams, image sharing, and mixed-reality annotations.

Microsoft Layout is a HoloLens app that brings designs from concept to completion. Users can import 3-D models to easily create and edit room layouts in real-world scale. Designs can also be experienced as high-quality holograms in physical space or in virtual reality and shared and edited with stakeholders in realtime.

Microsoft Remote Assist and Layout are already in use at the ZF Group, a German car-parts manufacturer.

See the upcoming June/July issue of AV Magazine for editor Clive Couldwell’s take on the potential and pitfalls of mixed reality and the launch of Microsoft SharePoint spaces.

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