In May 2018, Microsoft announced a new addition to the SharePoint platform: SharePoint Spaces.
“Today, we unveiled SharePoint spaces—immersive, mixed reality experiences—which enable you to view and interact with content from every angle and visualize and manipulate data and product models in real-time. SharePoint mainstreams mixed reality, empowering everyone to create visually compelling spaces that are available to anyone, on any device.”
Jeff Teper, Corporate Vice President for OneDrive, SharePoint, and Office on the Microsoft 365 blog
Mixes Reality and before that Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have been around for decades. Up until now creating or using Mixed Reality applications and devices in real life has been very difficult and expensive. There is a huge difference between creating a virtual world (Virtual Reality) where you are immersed as in a movie, creating objects that are set in front of the real world but have no interaction with them(Augmented Reality) of having the virtual world and the real world interact (Mixed Reality). Because of this MR has existed mostly in the imagination of science fiction writers and in research labs. Increasingly we’re becoming aware of the value of a virtual layer on top of the real world that can interact with the world.
To put the different types in some perspective let’s look at some examples.
Virtual reality: Second Life
“Second Life is an online virtual world, developed and owned by the San Francisco-based firm Linden Lab and launched on June 23, 2003. Second Life users (also called residents) create virtual representations of themselves, called avatars, and are able to interact with places, objects, and other avatars. They can explore the world (known as the grid), meet other residents, socialize, participate in both individual and group activities, build, create, shop and trade virtual property and services with one another.“
“IKEA Place lets you place true-to-scale 3D furniture in your home using the lens of your iPhone camera,” explains Michael Valdsgaard, the Leader of Digital Transformation at Inter IKEA Systems B.V. “You see the scene as if these objects were real and you can walk around them and interact with them, even leave the room and come back. It’s really magic to experience.”
In Mixed Reality realistic 3D objects are projected in the real world. Mixed Reality scans the real world and places the objects into this scan, fixing them in place so that you can interact with them or visit them later.
“Mixed reality, is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. Mixed reality takes place not only in the physical world or the virtual world, but is a mix of reality and virtual reality, encompassing both augmented reality and augmented virtuality via immersive technology.”
With SharePoint Spaces, users can create their own MR experience and mix in 3D objects, audio and video, documents and any other content from the Office 365 platform or even outside sources. It can be used with a MR headset like HoloLens, and from any browser or mobile browser. Microsoft is infusing SharePoint Spaces with Microsoft AI and Microsoft Graph to help connect people and content.
While there are many initiatives on Mixed Reality most of these feel very limited in value and user experience and do not look like they will get out of the experimental state. The pragmatic, business focused and user-centric ‘just click, drag and create’ approach that Microsoft is adopting with SharePoint Spaces could very well be the way to start using Mixed Reality in real life.
To find out more about SharePoint Spaces: