Microsoft is now allowing Teams users to create a 3D avatar to use in meetings instead of being on camera or even needing a webcam. Originally announced in 2021, Microsoft has been testing these 3D avatars over the past year and is now ready to allow Microsoft Teams users to try them out in public preview today.
“Avatars for Microsoft Teams offers an alternative to the current binary option of video or no video,” says Avery Salumbides, a product marketing manager at Microsoft, in a blog post today. “Avatars for Teams gives you that much-needed camera break, while still allowing you to collaborate effectively.”
These new avatars in Microsoft Teams will animate based on your vocal cues alone, so if you happen to be using a PC that doesn’t have a webcam, these will still function just fine. Microsoft is kicking off the public preview today and aims to roll these avatars out broadly in May.
Microsoft has been testing these avatars, powered by the company’s Microsoft Mesh platform, in private preview over the past six months and is now adding a new lighting system to improve avatar skin and hair appearance. New customization options also include bindis and hearing aids so you can customize your avatar more accurately.
Microsoft’s avatars will also animate when you use Teams emoji reactions. If you use the raise a hand feature in a meeting, then your Teams avatar will raise their hand, and it will even handle a thumbs-up reaction, too.
Microsoft is mainly planning to use these avatars in its Microsoft Mesh integration in Teams for 3D meetings. Mesh is a collaborative platform that includes virtual avatars adapted from Microsoft’s acquisition of AltspaceVR — a social VR platform it shut down earlier this month. Microsoft has also partnered with Meta to roll out a VR experience for Teams with compatible headsets to allow people to hold meetings in VR with 3D avatars.