June 1, 2023

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Microsoft Teams adds 3D avatars for people who want to turn off their webcams – Ars Technica

Zoom in / Customize a team avatar grid. Like many people in real-life video calls, avatars only have work clothes from the waist up.


There are many reasons to turn off your camera during a Zoom or Teams meeting – maybe you’re cleaning your desk and don’t want to look like you’re not paying attention, your child is climbing on you, or you haven’t been able to take a shower yet and don’t want to show your co-workers how you feel about things.

For people who want to split the difference between being on and off the camera, Microsoft will add animated 3D avatars to Microsoft Teams in May, according to a report. Microsoft product roadmap. 3D avatars are a component of “Mesh,” an initiative Microsoft announced in late 2021 when the “metaverse” hype reached a fever pitch. As originally envisioned, Mesh will include not only avatars for 3D Teams, but virtual workspaces accessible via VR, so people working remotely can enjoy themselves sitting in a conference room while someone drones in front of a PowerPoint group.

The roadmap update doesn’t include a full list of features, but previous announcements about Mesh for Teams showed avatars with customizable body types, skin tones, hair colors, hairstyles, clothing, and facial features. Microsoft said in late 2021 that initial versions of these avatars will only animate when users speak, but eventually the company wants them to be able to mimic real-world users’ facial expressions and movements as captured by their webcams.

Mesh for Teams was initially supposed to come out in 2022, but layoffs at Microsoft, a general cooling of interest in all things Metaverse, and workers gradually returning to offices could have set those plans back. Microsoft is also in the middle of a company-wide campaign to include AI features in all of its products, which could have put Mesh a place or two on the priority list.

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