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Microsoft refocuses its metaverse strategy on businesses

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(Kitco News) - Microsoft appears to be pivoting its metaverse strategy to focus more on businesses and less on social interactions between users, judging by recent development at the multinational technology corporation.

AltspaceVR, a Microsoft-owned social virtual reality platform, has announced that it will be closing up shop on March 10 so that the project’s team can shift its focus “to support immersive experiences powered by Microsoft Mesh.”

AltspaceVR was originally founded in 2013 by Eric Romo, Facebook Reality Labs Social Experiences’ director of product, and was bought out by Microsoft in 2017 after the company almost shut down due to a lack of money. Now, it appears as though the platform will be shuttered for good as its team focuses on other opportunities.

“As we look to the future, we see the opportunity for VR expanding beyond consumer into business and now have an even greater goal: a more open, accessible, and secure version of immersive experiences in the metaverse. To achieve that we have made the difficult decision to sunset the AltpaceVR platform on March 10, 2023,” the announcement said.

Rather than an abrupt shutdown, the project’s existing users and creators have been given time to host their final events and download saved content.

Moving forward, the AltspaceVR team will be refocusing their efforts on workplace experiences, which better aligns with the broader focus of Microsoft Mesh (MM). “We look forward to what is to come, including our launch of Microsoft Mesh, a new platform for connection and collaboration, starting by enabling workplaces around the world,” the announcement read.

MM originally launched in Nov. 2021 with the goal of making “collaboration in the ‘metaverse’ personal and fun.” Its launch coincided with a shifting employment landscape as remote work rose in prominence due to the Covid pandemic. Microsoft’s goal was to bring the reality of office life – which includes face-to-face interactions, chance encounters and body language – to the virtual world setting.

MM builds on the functionality offered by the Microsoft Teams business communications platform, combining its mixed-reality capabilities with the productivity tools of Microsoft Teams, allowing business users to experience mixed-reality applications.

Microsoft joins forces with Meta to bring its suite of products to the Metaverse

Evidence of what can be achieved with Microsoft Mesh was recently on display at the World Economic Forum 2023 in Davos, Switzerland, when the WEF unveiled a working prototype of its own metaverse project – Global Collaboration Village (GCV).

GCV was built using Microsoft Mesh and is designed to be a platform where organizations can collaborate and devise action plans to address the world’s most pressing challenges.

The new metaverse platform has already established partnerships with Microsoft, Accenture and 80 other organizations, and will feature a town hall for sessions, meetings and workshops, along with virtual collaboration spaces, which highlights its focus on facilitating business interactions. Organizations will also be able to create their own hubs to showcase their projects.

While the metaverse will undoubtedly be used for social interactions, users will need more to attract their attention and keep them engaged than the ability to virtually chat with their friends. Helping businesses get established in virtual reality and introducing their employees to what is possible in the metaverse is a good first step on the path to wider adoption.

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