No-code software: Microsoft's Power Apps gets better Teams links and mixed reality

Public preview of mixed-reality capabilities in Power Apps is coming this May.

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Users of Microsoft's 'low-code' Power Apps development tool will soon be able to use augmented-reality capabilities on smartphones to generate 3D models and integrate them into real-world workflows in warehouses, manufacturing business, construction, and retail. 

Microsoft is touting the new mixed-reality capabilities in Power Apps as a cheaper way for organizations to build custom mixed-reality apps than hiring a bunch of expensive developers. 

Power Apps offers two types of apps. Canvas apps allow a designer to drag and drop elements of a UI on to an interface while the UI on model-driven apps is created for the user. Using connectors, business users can integrate data from a range of data sources like Azure, Office 365, Twitter, Oracle, SharePoint and so on. 

The coming addition of mixed-reality capabilities in Power Apps will allow business users to tap augmented-reality features on smartphones and tablets to add mixed-reality elements into an app. 

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It will allow users to create a 3D model of an object and, for example, visualize whether it fits a given workspace or impacts visibility in the space. The app will enable linear and volumetric measurements, opening the possibility to automate a process or feed it back into a data source. 

Users can then view and interact with 3D models, superimpose them in the real world, and take a photo of the scene to share with others.

Microsoft points to several customers that are using the mixed-reality capabilities already, including an HVAC company that uses CAD software to create 3D models of its products. 

The company can now include the 3D models in its Power Apps product catalog app and visualize whether a particular HVAC model will fit a customer's site. 

Microsoft will release a public preview of the mixed-reality capabilities in May. Until then, interested organizations can apply to Microsoft to participate in the private preview. 

The company is also doing more to improve the user experience of Power Apps. Last week, Microsoft released a beta of a single app for both canvas and model-driven apps. Previously, users needed to install two different versions of Power Apps, making it a pain for users.   

Microsoft launched Power Apps in 2015 to give business users and developers a way to create custom apps without writing code. Google's answer to no-code Power Apps is AppSheet, a company it acquired earlier this year

SEE: No programming language skills needed: New Microsoft 'no code' Power Apps beta is out

Microsoft Teams, Microsoft's work collaboration tool, has also gained better integration with Power Apps. Microsoft says it's seen "unprecedented growth" of Power Apps within Teams due to remote working amid the coronavirus pandemic

The new integration enables Teams 'context variables' within Power Apps, which provides access to information about the channel, team, or group a Power Apps app has been embedded in. This feature allows Power Apps makers to filter relevant content and pre-populate fields based on which channel the app is embedded in. 

Using the Teams sub entity ID, a maker can deep-link to a page of an app embedded inside Teams. Microsoft believes this could be useful for the Power Apps crisis communications template it created in response to the pandemic.    

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Mixed-reality capabilities in Power Apps will allow users to create a 3D model of an object and, for example, visualize whether it fits a given workspace

Image: Microsoft