Microsoft is infusing mixed reality into SharePoint, adding a new degree of customization to the document management and collaboration program that is an integral part of the Office 365 package.
Microsoft is showing off the new SharePoint spaces capability today at its SharePoint Virtual Summit. Spaces creates a 3D, 360-degree environment that aims to make it easier for companies to better interact with data, products and employees.
Spaces is pretty easy to set up and doesn’t require a virtual reality headset to use. The program builds on SharePoint’s customization abilities, with a variety of simple templates to get users started and the ability to create their own more in-depth experiences. Users can import major company documents like sales figures, or training manuals or product prototypes to interact with.
Microsoft sees SharePoint spaces transforming three major parts of a business to begin with: product development, recruiting and training. For product development, users can look at items in 3D, annotate things they see there on the page and visualize what changes might look like.
Microsoft envisions companies using the tool to show off everything from their campuses to organizational charts to prospective employees. For new hires, spaces enables 3D video messages from company executives and more interactive training materials.
Mixed reality — which is primarily a Microsoft term meant to capture everything from the fully immersive virtual world to virtual objects laid on top of the real world — has become a big priority for the company. Last week at its Build developer conference, Microsoft showed off a pair of new mixed reality apps, Remote Assist and Layout, that we got to try out.
Microsoft’s take on the virtual world focuses more on business uses than the gaming experiences most would associate with VR and AR. Microsoft has its own headset — HoloLens — with applications for industries like healthcare, construction, architecture and more. It works with partners to develop both mixed reality apps and third-party headsets.
Microsoft has also implanted mixed reality capabilities into other core Office 365 programs like PowerPoint. It makes sense that Microsoft wants super charge SharePoint with mixed reality, as the company says it is the second most used Office 365 program, trailing only email, and more than 400,000 organizations use it.
SharePoint spaces isn’t the only new Office 365 capability announced at the virtual summit Monday. Enhanced capabilities around searching and images appear to be an important next step for Office 365.
Across Office 365, Microsoft is adding more image-based capabilities. A Scan button on the OneDrive mobile app makes it easier to capture photos, documents, whiteboards and business cards. Microsoft’s AI capabilities make it possible to determine where photos were taken, recognize objects and pullout text that makes them searchable by information within the photo rather than the file name.
A new “Find” tab coming soon to the SharePoint mobile app shows links to documents users recently worked on, regardless of which device they were using, as well as recommended people, files and data.
Microsoft is personalizing Office.com, Office 365’s virtual lobby. A recommended section shows files that Microsoft’s AI thinks are most likely to need attention. The discover section shows documents colleagues are working on.
SharePoint Server, a program to help companies storing their work on premises instead of using cloud services, is getting an upgrade to handle more hybrid storage scenarios with an improved user interface.