Microsoft Teams users will soon be able to create their own animated avatars to meet with colleagues in 3D virtual environments, thanks to an upcoming integration of the company's mixed reality platform, Mesh.

Mesh, unveiled by Microsoft earlier this year, provides tools for the development of 2D and 3D virtual environments for collaboration and communication. To date, the effort has included the creation of a dedicated Mesh collaboration app for users of Microsoft’s VR headset HoloLens, as well as integrating Mesh features — such as avatars — with AltSpaceVR, its social VR software. (Both are currently in preview.)

At the company's Ignite event Tuesday, Microsoft discussed plans to integrate the mixed reality platform into Teams, its video meeting and workplace chat application that has 250 million users worldwide.

Essentially, the integration provides an alternative way for colleagues to meet via Teams that goes beyond routine voice and videoconference calls.

Individuals create personalized 3D avatars to represent themselves in the virtual environment and then interact with avatars of other participants, or by using the traditional Teams video meeting grid views. To appear more lifelike, the avatar can mimic user gestures, with the avatar’s animation mouth moving in response to audio cues when the user speaks, for instance.

The avatars will interact in a set of prebuilt “immersive spaces” to replicate meeting rooms or social mixers, for example, Microsoft said. This could enable a product team to create a virtual space with a whiteboard for brainstorming and 3D design prototypes displayed on a table. A VR headset isn’t required: Mesh for Teams is also accessible via smartphone and laptop, Microsoft said.

The Mesh feature will begin rolling out to Teams users in preview during the first half of 2022, Microsoft said. Pricing has not yet been announced.