Mesh Avatars reached general availability and are now available world-wide. Avatars are the first Microsoft Mesh feature integrated in Microsoft Teams and a beginning of the metaverse in Teams. Avatars are an alternative for using video in meeting, far better for other participants than appearing as a profile image or just the initial bubble. Everyone can create three avatars, having something formal for meetings with customers and partners, casual for internal meetings, and maybe having a funny or a fantasy avatar for more fun meetings.
Create your first avatar
Avatars are created and managed on an Avatars app, which can be found from the Microsoft Teams Apps catalog. Just click Apps on the left rail and search for Avatars. If Avatars app is not available, it might have been blocked by your administrator.
Building a new avatar starts by selecting the base avatar from a variety of options.
Once you have picked your base avatar, you can start customizing it. There are lot of options to tweak, for example when picking the face shape, you can start with a predefined shape and fine-tune it with different sliders to get exactly the shape you want. You can control the body shape, skin color, face shape, eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Pick a certain hairstyle and color, facial hair, and eyebrows. Apply makeup and wrinkles. And select outfits, hats, and eyeglasses. For inclusiveness, you can express yourself with hearing aids and prosthetics.
Once you’re happy with your avatar, you can start using it in meetings, or create a new one by duplicating or starting from scratch.
Avatars in meetings
Avatar can be activated on the meeting join screen or switching it on during the meeting from the Effects and avatars panel. Custom backgrounds also work with avatars, otherwise the background is dark.
During the meeting you can change the avatar and change the background. The avatar mimics your voice with animated facial expression, but when you a silent the avatar is quite steady (and dull), it just moves a bit and looks around. So, it is important to express your mood and feelings, agree and disagree with avatar reactions and mood settings. With mood settings you can control the level of happiness (no, the avatar cannot be angry or sad).
On the reactions pane, you can control your avatar for example by nodding, expressing that you’re thinking, liking, and applauding. Or express even more feelings with a robot dance, dabbing or fist bumping.
There are over fifty reactions to choose from, and you can pin the favorite ones for easy access.
Avatars also support and express native meeting reactions.
Avatars might feel just a new gimmick to play around with, and for some it is that. But we spend a lot of our time in Teams meetings, at least us information workers do, and there are still lots of initial bubbles hanging around without any expressions of feelings. Would it be better to have a way to express feelings without always having a camera on? Sometimes it’s not even possible to use video, for example just having a bad hair day, in a busy cafe, or having people walking by. Avatar is then an excellent choice, but remember that you need to work with it, express feelings, nod when agreeing and shake your head when not agreeing. It makes the avatar feel more natural.
How should an organization implement avatars? In my opinion:
- Create some ground rules on how avatars are used in the organization.
- Educate the users about using the avatar on meetings.
- Create avatar-preferred meetings so people can get used to them
- Keep an open mind and have fun