Microsoft to talk about 'the future of mixed reality' at Ignite conference next week

Mixed reality will be a big focus for Microsoft at its Ignite Part 2 virtual event for IT pros and developers from March 2 to 4.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Part two of Microsoft's Ignite show for IT pros and developers kicks off on March 2. It looks like the company's mixed-reality strategy is going to be a key focus at the virtual event, based on the session list. (Even the main Ignite keynote with CEO Satya Nadella and Mixed Reality chief Alex Kipman is set to be accessible in mixed reality via AltspaceVR.)

Microsoft refocused its mixed reality hardware and services to focus more on the business market a couple of years ago. Microsoft recently introduced an "industrial" edition of its HoloLens mixed-reality goggles, tailored for regulated industries. And its mixed-reality apps like Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, Guides training app, and Layout, a 3D layout app, are part of its Dynamics 365 product family.

Next week, Microsoft is on tap to reveal more about where it's going with mixed reality. A session entitled "Introducing the future of mixed reality" is slated for Day One of the event. Other sessions will highlight use cases for Microsoft's mixed reality products and services in healthcare, automotive, and other industries.

"Mixed reality is transforming the way we work, live, and play. Companies across industries are leveraging mixed reality to drive transformation and are seeing a strong return on investment. Join us to learn more about our vision for the future of mixed reality," reads the Day One keynote blurb.

It looks like business will still be a key focus for Microsoft in mixed reality based on other Ignite session descriptions. Another Ignite session blurb:

"The power and potential of mixed reality in changing the world is tremendous, and we are only at the tip of the iceberg as we navigate the new normal of a distributed, remote workforce. Join this session to hear from our speakers on how they are leveraging mixed reality to solve complex problems, create positive social impact, and empower all humans."

Microsoft has hidden or removed a mixed-reality session listing that leaked last week (thanks to The Walking Cat on Twitter). That session, entitled "A developer's introduction to Microsoft Mesh," described a new Mesh developer platform for mixed reality apps.

"Microsoft Mesh enables presence and shared experiences from anywhere -- on any device -- through mixed reality applications," according to that missing session description.

I don't know if "Microsoft Mesh" has anything to do with the existing concept of a service mesh. A service mesh is an architecture for dynamically linking to one another the chunks of server-side applications -- most notably, the microservices -- that collectively form an application. These can be the components that were intentionally composed as part of the same application, as well as those from different sources altogether that may benefit from sharing workloads.

I'm thinking Microsoft Mesh may have more to do with the Azure Spatial Anchors concept which Microsoft introduced in 2019.

Before Microsoft introduced Azure Spatial Anchors, holographic applications could already share spatial anchors between themselves, enabling users to render a hologram at the same place in the real world across multiple devices. But with Azure Spatial Anchors, HoloLens, iPhone, and Android phone users can work with holograms which can persist across the platforms by using a shared coordinate system. The service provides access to a database of places that map to Wi-Fi SSIDs. Phone users need to download an app to be part of the shared physically and digitally blended environment.   

Ignite Part 2 is March 2 through March 4, 2021. Other sessions feature Azure, Teams, Power Platform, Dynamics 365, AI, IoT, and other typical IT Pro-focused topics. The Ignite session list, published today, is here.

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