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May 21, 2018updated 22 May 2018 7:39am

Microsoft Brings Mixed Reality to the Office with SharePoint Spaces

Mixed reality gets ever-more accessible

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft today rolled out a new product, SharePoint Spaces, which adds immersive, mixed reality experiences to the long-standing web-based, collaborative platform – widely used by businesses to share internal content.

It allows users to create a virtual space to view and interact with mixed reality content, information, and video on any device—in a browser, mobile browser, or headset. Mixed reality refers to the overlapping of digital or virtual objects with the real world.

The company described it as “integrated and extensible”, adding “we expect partners to embrace SharePoint spaces and to develop powerful web parts and experiences that will drive a new wave of innovation for customers.”

SharePoint is the first unified content collaboration and services solution to span files, websites and, soon, mixed reality spaces

SharePoint Spaces will be available in all Office 365 commercial plans at an unspecified future data. A special preview version is currently available.

SharePoint is primarily used by businesses to manage internal content, but Microsoft clearly sees it as having a VR headset home too (a video shows employs donning headsets to use it).

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The launch comes weeks after the company released two other mixed reality (which spans virtual reality, augmented reality) applications.

Microsoft Remote Assist and Microsoft Layout are respectively a HoloLens app for remote collaboration through mixed-reality annotations and and app that allows users to import 3D models to create and edit room layouts at real-world scale.

Jeff Teper, the company’s corporate vice president for OneDrive, SharePoint, and Office, said in a blog post: “SharePoint spaces empower creators to build immersive experiences with point-and-click simplicity.”

He added: “Our customers already store over a petabyte of 3D content, including 360-degree videos created with mobile phones. SharePoint spaces are the most natural way to view and interact with 3D content, empowering people to interact with objects that might be too numerous, too large, or too dynamic to experience in the real world or in a two-dimensional environment.”

The company sees use cases encompassing product development (“Create an inspiring space for your team to spark innovation. Surround yourself with experts to look at data, content, and processes from every angle. Explore a prototype in 3D to identify new opportunities, attach annotations, and visualize improvement”), education and onboarding/recruitment – although it is unclear how many businesses will feel the need to buy headsets to show new employees the ropes.

The roll out could, however, bring down the cost of developing mixed reality experiences for businesses, given the widespread use of SharePoint. It comes after Google earlier this month trailed an upgraded WebXR application programming interface (API) for its Chrome browser, giving developers the ability to create a wide range of “Extended Reality” (XR) experiences on mobile devices and desktops.

For developers, this means that they can utilise this API to create XR features for the web, using its pre-built functions which specialise in creating software for this area.

Demand for XR continues with momentous growth predicted over the next few years as reported by IDC. The data specialists anticipate worldwide spending on AR and VR to reach $17.8 billion in 2018 and grow 98.8 percent annually to 2021.

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