Exciting Announcements: Microsoft Mesh, Azure Percept and Microsoft's AI Models & Research

Microsoft Mesh Empowering Business & Human Connections in a Remote World

Teams Updates- Dynamic Views, PowerPoint Live, Presenter Mode, Standout Mode, Reporter Mode; Microsoft Viva Announcements- Viva Insights, Viva Topics, Viva Connections & Viva Learning; Azure Communication Services for Low Code Devs

Transcript- Rene

Hi! How’s it going? My name is Rene from Valorem Reply where I lead Research and Innovation around emerging technologies. And I just wanted to quickly recap my favorite sessions and moments from the Microsoft Ignite conference.

Well first of all of course the amazing opening keynote was a perfect start, right? And it was really fantastic. You could of course watch the stream on the website in 2D but you were also able to actually join it in AltspaceVR and that's what I did. So, I was one of these avatars you can see here. There was actually a great moment that you could only experience in an immersive virtual reality world. Basically, before the keynote, a bunch of my friends that were also in here as these other avatars, they approached me and then we were talking and chatting away before the keynote about a bunch of things or catching up. It was amazing because it was just like a real conference when just before the session you meet your friends and colleagues and try to engage. It was really one of the most fantastic moments and it felt much more immersive than just watching a 2D screen. You felt really connected with the audience and the speakers of course. And well, there was a lot of amazing stuff. For example, they even had James Cameron [join the keynote session] and there was a lot of talk about the oceanography research they’re doing, there was even a squid circling around you. And the keynote had a wild dance party in virtual reality, which was fun right? If you see geeks dancing just like in a real conference, but all are virtual avatars.

And of course [one of] the biggest announcements was Microsoft Mesh which you can see here in the video playing in the background. Microsoft Mesh is actually a platform [that] allows [us] to create mixed reality applications that are not just isolated in a silo but actually connected and collaborative and also cross platform. So, this is all about connecting people with each other in an immersive workspace if you will. So, this is the leading topic from Ignite, you know these kind of immersive workspaces. And again, it's cross platform, so it's not just the HoloLens, right? It's not just this device where [Microsoft Mesh] can work but also mobile as well as PC virtual reality like Windows Mixed Reality but also other ones like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. But also standalone VR headsets like the Oculus Quest will apparently be supported as well as mobile. iOS, Android, all of these platforms will be supported as Microsoft Mesh collaboration endpoints if you will. All of that is of course in an early preview. There is one product/application available where you can try it out. It's the HoloLens 2 Mesh App Preview which I tried it out already and was pretty amazed actually what's possible with it. Where can you know collaborate, load a 3D model, you can annotate it and [also] you [can] see the other people that could be distributed across the globe. You could view [3D models] and collaborate together. And the nice part is, Microsoft Mesh is not a final product or anything like that, it is a platform. Which means we can build our custom solutions on top of it and they can then collaborate with other Microsoft enabled applications, Microsoft Mesh enabled applications. And so you can build these really amazing cross-platform, collaborative applications on top of Microsoft Mesh which is really amazing. And you can even integrate custom avatars. So you can have these kind of virtual, comic-like avatars that you see here in Altspace or like Alex Kipman here on stage, as a volumetric video, right? Which could be live streamed or prerecorded and you can integrate those. And if you know what we have been doing with HoloBeam, of course we are trying to integrate that as well into the Microsoft Mesh platform here. And yeah, we also got also work together with you, with our clients, and everyone on some Microsoft Mesh enabled applications. And yeah, we're super excited about it and [ready to start] building Microsoft Mesh applications. Which also of course has a lot of things in common, right? When you can collaborate together, you also think about business scenarios for industrial settings like you know for smart maintenance and other topics.

Which leads us to one of my other favorite announcements from Microsoft Ignite which was Azure Percept. So Azure Percept is basically an end-to-end solution where you can easily build intelligent edge deployments for edge AI, for edge artificial intelligence solutions. And for this, you also get some prebuilt dev kits. So the nice thing is, you don't have to solder or build your own custom built stuff that you want to use with soldering and little modules on top of that. You can use these final end-to-end solutions. And it's of course nicely integrated with Azure AI and Azure IoT and you even get a bunch of amazing pre-built models. For example, for object detection or animally detection or even as you can see here there's this audio module which has four microphones, so you can even use speech recognition, keyboard detection, and all of that with pre-built AI models. But you can also build your own custom models, for example, you can build your custom vision model with this nice Azure Percept Studio where you can basically work with all these different Azure Percept devices. And the nice thing is, for this custom vision training, if you want to train a custom vision application, then you need to provide a lot of training data. You need to have images in the end. And the nice part is that if you for example deploy one of these Azure Percept Vision Models in your production line, it can automatically capture training data. It can automatically capture images in the end. Like every 5 seconds, that becomes a training data set, right? Then you just go in and label them, hit the button to train, and then you have your trained model, your custom trained model easily done. A super amazing workflow in fact that will just scale up really nicely. Speaking about scalability, there is actually another nice feature there supporting Wi-Fi easy connect. So basically, you take these devices just turn them on, you have them pre-configured in Azure Percept Studio, and then they will just automatically connect to network and will be available and that is amazing for scalability, right? And like I mentioned, there's also these audio - it’s not just vision- there's audio and auto sensor data involved, so you can basically build custom keyboard detection and whatnot. And these dev kits are available for pre-ordering but, it's an open ecosystem, Microsoft’s M4, with inviting a lot of OEMs/ISVs, and we're super excited about starting to build our custom solutions for our clients with industrial settings, smart maintenance and all of that. On top of this, also highly secure, zero trust platform. And it's amazing, lower time to develop, an accelerated time to ship with reduced complexity, and you don't need to build all these small details yourself. You can focus on the domain specific solution and that is going to take a lot of plumping away that you don't have to care about and just focus really on what matters for your own solution.

Another amazing keynote I saw was here, this one from Mitra [Azizirad. Corp VP Microsoft AI & Innovation Marketing], talking about Envisioning Tomorrow, showing a lot of AI models and a lot of AI research. Like here for example, with the drone that is trained with synthetic data using smart SIM or AR SIM, the application, for generating training data for these drones and virtual worlds that you can then apply in real world, physical world situations. She also talked about these huge models like the AI Turing model for example, which is basically gathering all the data from the whole world around us and then using it for natural language processing or conversational AI. But in general, these huge models they can actually be used for basically anything, I mean they were generalized somehow and it's crazy what you can build with those, right? And what I also enjoyed about the keynote is you can see it was actually a little bit interactive. So, what she is showing here, [attendees] could actually use that knob there and change the kind of the rain, dynamically, which you could see here right, real-time and that was really, really amazing. I enjoyed it a lot! And of course, she also talked about the Azure AI ethical principles. Because Microsoft is working a lot on these Azure AI principles and is working on many of these solutions that are not just guiding principles but actual frameworks. And not just written words but actionable things that you can use in your work with AI. And I love that Microsoft is putting such an emphasis on these AI principles and is implementing those in their solutions. And [Valorem Reply] is also doing the same thing working with customers and partners. We put a lot of emphasis on that when we use AI, we do it in an ethical way.

Overall, many amazing announcements, right? And by the way, we at Reply also had our own Showcase Page which you can still find here and on [the Ignite site]. We had our Demo Center and Innovation Center, and you can see a bunch of our solutions there. And also, we had our own session which you can see here [at the bottom of our Showcase Page or in the Ignite Session Catalog]. We had our own session about Industrial IoT, mixed reality, and robotics [formatted as] an expert talk with my Cluster Reply colleague and fellow MVP Marek Matuszewski as well as with Justin Jackson from Reply US. And you can still check it out, the session is available on-demand, so go and watch it. I hope you enjoy it, we made it a little bit differently [than other sessions you may have attended as more of an] expert talk [like you might see in] a video series or podcast style. But we also show a lot of exciting new projects and videos and what not. So again, go check it out.

One thing I want to hear from you, what were your favorite moments from Microsoft Ignite? So maybe you want to share on social media or as a comment here. I'm really curious what were your favorite Microsoft Ignite moments and topics and sessions and whatnot. Thanks for tuning in. Watch our blog, follow our social media channels, to hear all about what we're going to build with all these new amazing solutions and services and platforms that Microsoft announced at Microsoft Ignite. Thank you for watching, take care and see you soon, bye bye.

Transcript- StevenHello, my name is Steven Farrow and I am a brand new Sales Associate here at Valorem, I've been here for my second week now. And I attended the [Microsoft Ignite] session called “An Introduction to Microsoft Mesh” and that was led by Simon Skaria, [Microsoft Director of Product for HoloLens and Computer Vision Services]. The main theme of this [presentation] was an introduction to Microsoft Mesh and just basically how that can empower your business/your university and how it can help you bring mixed reality/virtual reality into your world/your space. [Up until] now my previous experience with mixed reality was a little to none. [Primarily] what I had seen in movies or some minor VR gaming [experience] I had done with some friends. But as I learned more about it [through the Ignite session], some takeaways from this presentation are that mixed reality and [Microsoft] Holoportation, it's going to change the way we connect and interact with folks forever in the future. The way I see it, being able to really be in a space with someone as opposed to just looking at a picture of them or a video of them is completely game changing. As well, I think Microsoft Mesh is just going to give the ability for you to really build an amazing mixed reality environment, create holograms. etc., all with spatial audio that's done without you having to even write a line of code yourself. Which is just crazy amazing! My last takeaway/third big takeaway from [the session] was just the different applications it can have. [For example], the ability to be in a classroom [digitally studying] together, [or] maybe in an operating room and needing help and being able to pull up manuals or [speak to communicate in 3D with an expert] and [get your questions answered] right there, it's endless the ways that this could be brought into use for any type of business or operation or university, etc. I think for me, I look at this as being really important, especially as we've moved on from 2020. Just the ability to stay connected and that means more as we continue to go into the future and figure out how we will all continue to work and work together and make that happen. We’ll still have to be physically [separate] in some spaces but being able to still be there virtually together [to communicate and collaborate], is an amazing thought. [My] last thought it was just how far all virtual reality has really come. [In the past, it seemed] like just something you would see in Star Wars or an Avengers [movie] and now [we’re seeing that technology already being leveraged to] help you with your business or help you to grow and take any opportunity that you see and really run with it. So that's one [of the] most interesting things I [took away from] this presentation. Thank you! 

Transcript- Liji

Hi there! Once again, great conference from Microsoft Ignite. Completely remote and digital this year but nonetheless exciting announcements. My name is Liji Thomas, I'm a Manager in the Modern App Dev space with Valorem Reply and I'd like to take a moment to share some of my personal favorites from the conference. First off, there was a session on “The Latest Innovations with Microsoft Teams” by General Manager for Microsoft Teams, Nicole Herskowitz. [It was a] great session talking through all the work that Microsoft has done in the last year. And it's exciting to see how they're taking it even further this year with some news around PowerPoint live in [Microsoft] Teams, [Microsoft Teams] Dynamic views, and [Microsoft Teams] Presenter Mode. So, for someone who's doing webinars and presentations, you have complete control over where your video feed would appear. For example, in front of the content, side by side with the content, etc. There were a couple of options they announced, the standout feature, the side-by-side feature and even the Reporter feature. So that's just exciting.

And another session that I really liked was the one by Chuck Friedman, who is the Corporate VP for Employee Experience with Microsoft. His session on Microsoft Viva is probably one of the most awaited [Ignite] sessions I think. Because, ever since Viva was announced in early February this year, a lot of news [going around] because it's the first of its kind around employee experience. This [Microsoft Viva] experience platform is supposed to address some of the key areas of interest these days, especially in a remote, digitally connected world like employee engagement, employee learning, knowledge discovery and sharing. And so, [there are] a lot of conversations around the four modules of Viva, Viva Insights, Viva Topics, Viva Connections and Viva learning. And [Microsoft is] starting to have GA (General Availability) releases starting this month and next month. So, I can't wait to get started on that.

And of course, a lot of other great [Ignite 2021] sessions were on Microsoft Mesh to Microsoft Power Fx- the first programming language for low code developers. But [one of the most] powerful features [announced at Ignite], I felt, was the one that was [covered] by Donovan Brown (Microsoft Partner Program Manager) in his session. “Empowering Every [Developer] to Innovate with [Microsoft] Azure.” [Specifically], there was a mention of Azure Communication Services which I think has a great possibility to enable scenarios wherein developers can now easily integrate video, text, and data with their existing applications. So, this is really made easy with a [large] set of libraries that's been made available to the developers and they can enable browser-to-app, app-to-app, user-to-bot kind of scenarios and easily integrate this rich multimedia.

So, great sessions and great announcements as always from Microsoft Ignite and if you've missed any of that I'm sure there’ll be on-demand sessions that you can check out and also, Microsoft Ignite's Book of News. It's a complete guide to all the latest information. Thank you!