Microsoft Mesh lets you hold virtual meetings around virtual bonfires

The hype around the so-called Metaverse seems to have died down a bit. Even Facebook, which changed its name to Meta to emphasize its new mission, has been rather silent on that front, especially in light of AI being the hottest thing in tech these days. With the launch of the Apple Vision Pro, however, interest in mixed reality, as well as AR and VR, is once again on the rise. As such, now seems to be the best time for Microsoft to also make widely available its own virtual meeting platform, Microsoft Mesh, encouraging a new approach to hybrid work arrangements that will have attendees “sitting” around digital bonfires or posh virtual rooms, all for the sake of trying to make people feel more connected even when they’re all just sitting in their own homes.

Designer: Microsoft

In order to shake off the image of something only for games and entertainment, platform developers like Meta and Microsoft try to make mixed reality technologies something that’s actually useful for serious business as well. These usually involve providing virtual spaces for meetings, creating avatars that represent employees, and holding more interactive and livelier gatherings that would otherwise be a boring experience of watching people’s faces in a grid of boxes. In other words, they try to recreate the feelings and emotions of meeting in person when they physically can’t.

Microsoft Mesh is Redmond’s solution to this problem. Think of it like a VR Microsoft Teams and is, in fact, integrated into Microsoft’s collaboration platform. With just a few clicks, you can turn a flat, literally and figuratively, meeting into a 3D virtual experience, complete with bars, chairs, fires, and, of course, a screen inside a screen for showing presentations to your team. You’ll have to create your own personalized avatar, preferably something close to your real-world appearance, and you can decorate your spaces the way you want, including company logos, of course.


Microsoft is leaning heavily on its no-code tools to make Mesh more enticing, in addition to having it tied to Microsoft Teams in the first place. Designing the area is a simple process of dragging and dropping assets as you would in a 3D game editor, thanks to a collaboration with Unity 3D. But if that is already too complex, Microsoft Co-Pilot offers an easier method that utilizes AI to translate your prompts into captivating virtual interiors, or at least the semblance of one. Whether it’s just a simple stand-up meeting that needs everyone to be on their toes, a brainstorming session that requires a bit more creativity, or a presentation that needs to keep people attentive, a virtual meeting space is probably going to help spice things up a bit.

Mesh comes at an interesting time when businesses are actually pushing for their workers to return to the office completely. For many companies, however, hybrid has become an unavoidable and permanent reality, with both the benefits and drawbacks it carries, particularly when it comes to the indirect interaction between humans. Microsoft Mesh is being positioned as the next best thing to support those social connections even when actual physical cues are absent. It’s now being made available for Windows PCs, but those who want a more immersive and convincing experience can enjoy it using their Meta Quest headset. That said, you’ll need a Microsoft subscription as well, so it’s not exactly something that everyone can experience.

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Xbox Series S toaster is now a real thing that can toast your bread

You probably know a gamer or two (or more) who live and breathe playing games on their console of choice, to the point that they tend to skip things like talking to other people and even eating. There are also probably gamers who see their game graphics everywhere, even on their food. Well, this can happen literally now, at least for Xbox fans as you can now imprint the logo on your bread.

Designer: Microsoft

The Xbox Series S toaster is now available to make all your Xbox toast dreams come true. It may seem like a joke item but it’s a real product that you can buy at Walmart and you can use as you toast your loaf bread, waffle, bagel, or whatever else piece of bread that you want to have the Xbox logo on before you actually eat and consume it. It doesn’t serve any other purpose except to put that logo on your bread and for Microsoft to have that image of having fun at their own expense.

This is actually born out of the memes that populated social media sites when the Xbox Series S first came out, comparing it with, you guessed it, a toaster. It has a digital countdown timer and you can even choose the shade setting for the xbox logo to be imprinted on your bread. The design of the toaster itself is similar to the Xbox Series S so you might have to be careful or you could start playing games in your kitchen or you might put a piece of bread into your actual Xbox.

This isn’t the first time they created an actual appliance based on people making fun of their console designs. The Xbox Series X mini fridge came out previously and we wouldn’t be surprised if they will eventually lean into this and create other kitchen appliances with the Xbox branding like a microwave, cutlery, plates, and even other products not related to the kitchen or eating. But for now, enjoy having the Xbox logo on your toast as you play games while eating.

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Microsoft Windows Ugly Sweater arrives in time to bring holiday jeer

The Christmas season is often associated with staying warm (if you’re living in the northern hemisphere) and having fun, and there’s a rather recent tradition that combines those with tongue-in-cheek humor. Ugly sweaters are exactly what their names imply, intentionally designed to be ridiculously laughable so that there’s really no room for misinterpretation. Making a pun on being a “soft wear” company, Microsoft has been releasing such unfashionable wearables for half a decade now, poking good-natured fun at its own products. This year’s design is an ode to the early 2000s, bringing back fond and not-so-fond memories of one of the longest-lived Windows versions of all: Windows XP.

Designer: Microsoft

Parts of the Windows XP design have perhaps forever been engraved in people’s memories, at least for those old enough to be using computers by 2001 onward. The candy-like “Luna” theme, the familiar login sound, and, of course, the iconic wallpaper that’s actually a photo of a landscape in Sonoma County, California. It’s this wallpaper, named “Bliss,” that Microsoft is bringing in somewhat low-res quality to this year’s Ugly Sweater, taking wearers and onlookers for a trip down memory lane, whether they like to or not.

Bliss is simple yet captivating, basically a picture of a green hill against the backdrop of a blue sky and white clouds. As its name suggests, it evokes a sense of serenity and calm, which is hardly the emotions you’d associate with using Windows XP, especially when the dreaded BSOD or Blue Screen of Death rears its ugly head. Nonetheless, it’s a powerful and admittedly warm image, just the perfect match for a warm piece of clothing.

That is, of course, if you’d be fine wearing what is practically the Windows XP wallpaper, letting everyone see your loyalty to the operating system or to the company. It’s not a perfect recreation of the wallpaper, though, and is more pixelated than what you’d see on a screen. It’s almost as if someone booted the sweater in Safe Mode, and there’s probably some underlying message there that we missed. And yes, there’s a very large mouse cursor there, fortunately pointing nowhere embarrassing.

This year’s Windows Ugly Sweater does have some hidden beauty, at least in how it is trying hard to save the environment. Specifically, Microsoft has partnered with The Nature Conservancy for this project, though exact details haven’t been laid out. At least you’ll be feeling a little good about yourself every time you intentionally put a large target on your back by wearing such an incredibly comical sweater this holiday season.

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Microsoft Xbox just released an Official Limited Edition wristwatch for $80

I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of overlap between the gaming community and the watch-lover community. How else would you explain Tag Heuer collaborating with Mario Kart, or Anicorn partnering with Hideo Kojima over this 2022 Metal Gear timepiece… or even the fact that Casio has a League of Legends edition of their G-Shock collection. The collabs don’t stop there because Microsoft just teamed up with Meister Watches to debut an Xbox-themed limited-edition timepiece. The exclusive watch, limited to just 250 units, comes with a gorgeous Stormtrooper color aesthetic, and the Xbox logo emblazoned across the watch’s face, making the collaboration pretty evident.

Designer: Microsoft Xbox & Meister Watches

Dubbed rather simply the XBOX watch, the timepiece comes in a colorway Meister calls “Crystal White”, as an homage to the limited edition transparent plastic ‘Crystal’ Xbox consoles back in the day. Aside from the massive Xbox logo on the dial as well as the crown, the watch sports topographical details on the face as well as the strap, a flair from Meister’s end that tries to bring about visual depth to the timepiece. That is, if you exclude that chunky outer body.

At the core of this watch lies a reliable Japanese 3-hand quartz movement, ensuring accuracy and longevity. The movement also supports features like the watch’s day and date functions, visible through the day and date windows at 3 and 12 o’clock respectively. You’ve even got water resistance of up to 50 meters, which, coupled with that rubber/silicone strap, means you can easily take a dip in a pool or go surfing without worrying about the water affecting your watch. Luminous markings on the hands allow you to read time at night or even under the water, although don’t expect this to serve as a dive watch.

The limited edition watch is already sold out as of writing this piece, but if you were one of the lucky ones to snag this up, it cost a mere $80, making for a pretty nifty keepsake. To add to that, the watch also shipped in a collector’s box that resembles a miniature Xbox Series S, adding to its appeal as a piece of gaming memorabilia.

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Microsoft’s Project Silica glass storage system looks right out of sci-fi

Storing massive amounts of data in the modern world is a lot more complicated and expensive than it would seem, given the persistence of the internet, which now dates back almost 40 years. Hard disk drives are relatively easy to break due to regular usage, and they only last an average of five years before becoming inoperable – making the information stored within disappear forever. Keeping the internet alive over the years requires a ton of electricity, and not just in terms of manufacturing and shipping new storage drives. Simply operating the massive arrays of computers where data is stored creates a tremendous carbon footprint, contributing significantly to climate destruction.

Microsoft’s Project Silica wants to solve one piece of that puzzle: data archival. The team behind Project Silica has been busy figuring out how to archive impressive quantities of data away in a physical vault that requires minimal amounts of electricity to maintain. In the automated vault, shelves of individual glass sheets storing up to 7 terabytes each (that’s over 1.75 million songs, according to Microsoft) are accessible by robotic servos that can track down a given sheet, then bring it back to a physical reader that transmits the data inside over the cloud. The only catch: once data is written to a glass sheet, that sheet can never be written over again.

Designer: Microsoft

An “ultrafast femtosecond laser” modifies the shape of the glass plates as it writes, storing information in voxels – 3D pixels that can store volumetric information. These voxels are encoded into the body of the glass, and can only be read with a quick-moving microscope that works similarly to a CD or DVD reader albeit at a much larger scale. Somewhere between those two interactions, robotic servos shuffle up and down steel rows, storing data away on shelves that look straight out of the Minority Report.

The entire four-step process is powered by Microsoft Azure AI, which makes sense given how complex it must be to make a foolproof automated system integrating digital and physical interactions, which is exactly what’s going on inside of the Project Silica library. Its robotic servos “climb the shelves, fetch the glass, and then zip back to the reader” before stopping to self-charge.

Each glass slab is designed to last for 10,000 years, which is evidently twice as long as it’s been since humanity’s oldest recorded writing was created about 5000 years ago. Even more shockingly, the entire library is “passive, with no electricity in any of the storage units” according to Microsoft.

Elire is already collaborating with Project Silica to store music in the Global Music Vault, but the technology isn’t quite ready for widespread use. Microsoft says there are about “3-4 more developmental stages” before these glass-based libraries become the norm for long-term data storage on a commercial level, but the benefits are clear. Project Silica could represent a massive step forward in minimizing humanity’s carbon footprint while ensuring its achievements live on through the ages.

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Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 could be the beginning of the end for the hardware brand

Microsoft hasn’t had a lot of good fortune when it comes to its own hardware, at least outside of the Xbox consoles. Its first attempt at an iPod killer turned the Zune into a laughing stock, and its efforts to create its own mobile platform as well as adopt Android both ended up as market failures. Surprisingly, it struck gold with the Surface, particularly the Surface Pro line of 2-in-1 detachable tablet PCs that challenged the iPad and offered an even more versatile working experience on the go. That gave birth to a family of products ranging from computers to accessories and some hope that Microsoft has finally succeeded after all those years. Last week even saw the announcement of a new Surface Laptop Studio 2, but reception has been a little bit lukewarm and even doubtful of the future of these portable computers.

Designer: Microsoft

It’s not that the new Surface Laptop Studio 2 is terrible, just that it comes two years after the very first model. The Surface Laptop Studio definitely turned heads with its unique design in how it combined laptop and tablet forms in a way no other manufacturer has done before. It’s still a single piece of hardware, unlike the detachable Surface Pro, but part of its display detaches from the back and can be tilted at different angles, transforming the computer into a tablet or entertainment center. It practically combines the Surface Laptop and the larger Surface Studio to create a portable creativity powerhouse like no other.

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 upgrades that design from the inside, with newer options when it comes to specs. There are also some changes from the outside, like the addition of a full-sized USB-A port and a microSD card slot, but the overall form remains the same. It’s more of an incremental step forward, which might sound a bit disappointing considering how much time has passed between the two generations.

What has some Microsoft fans more concerned, however, is what the company wasn’t saying or showing during that event. The Surface Pro 10 was nowhere to be seen, which was strange considering it is the poster child for the brand. Even the smallest Surface got an upgrade, though the Surface Go 4’s middling specs and business-oriented rhetoric might make it less interesting for consumers. The Surface Laptop Go also arrives with a third-gen model, though this is also the less powerful version of Microsoft’s self-branded laptop.

Instead, Microsoft’s event seemed to focus more on its AI-powered Office features, which isn’t surprising considering how it’s a very hot topic and how Microsoft has invested heavily in this technology. But along with the departure of Panos Panay, considered to be the face of Microsoft Surface, there have been murmurs and doomsayings about the future of this product line. After all, the design of the Surface devices hasn’t change that much over the years, and, save for the Surface Laptop Studio, hasn’t seen much innovation either. It remains to be seen if Microsoft has lost its touch and, just like its previous hardware products, put the Surface to pasture soon.

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Microsoft’s AI Powered Backpack Redefines Your Smart Companion On the Go

In a world where our trusty smartphones have evolved into pocket-sized powerhouses, it’s natural to wonder if our everyday backpacks could use a tech-savvy upgrade. Well, wonder no more, because Microsoft has just unveiled an ingenious wearable that promises to revolutionize the way we perceive and interact with our surroundings.

Designer: Microsoft

Imagine this: a smart backpack, not just any backpack, but one powered by the remarkable capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI). It’s not science fiction; it’s a reality that has recently received the green light from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Let’s delve into the exciting world of this innovative invention and see what all the buzz is about.

At its core, Microsoft’s smart backpack acts as your extra set of eyes. It’s equipped with the remarkable ability to identify objects in your immediate surroundings. Picture walking down a bustling street, and your backpack can provide you with real-time information about your environment – it’s like having your personal guide right there with you.


yanko design images to size – Microsoft_AI_backpack_03

Beyond object recognition, this intelligent companion can handle tasks for you. Need to set a reminder? Just ask your backpack. Want to add an event to your calendar? Your backpack is on it. It can even assist you in determining the price of an item at the grocery store. Think of it as your reliable sidekick, always ready to assist you on your adventures.

Thanks to its cloud connectivity, this smart backpack is a veritable treasure trove of information. It can fetch data from the internet in the blink of an eye, keeping you informed and up-to-date, no matter where you find yourself. Imagine having Google’s vast knowledge right at your disposal, all from the convenience of your backpack. The phrase “Are you stupid?” is on the verge of extinction! But of course, AI does not aid with common sense yet, right?!

Coming back, the magic doesn’t stop there. This backpack effortlessly syncs with your other tech gadgets, creating a harmonious tech ecosystem that simplifies your life. It’s like having all your devices working together seamlessly, sharing information and enhancing your daily experiences.

Beyond convenience, this backpack could be a game-changer for the visually impaired. With its built-in camera, microphone, speaker, network connection, processor, and storage space, it becomes an invaluable tool, offering crucial information and assistance in navigating the world.

While the potential applications of this smart backpack are vast, there’s a critical aspect that must not be overlooked: ergonomics. Designing the backpack to be ergonomic is key to making it a staple in our daily lives. Just think back to the early days of computing when computers were massive and cumbersome. Now we have lightweight laptops like the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 and MacBook Air. Similarly, ensuring that this smart backpack is easy to carry and lightweight would make it accessible to people of all ages and strengths, much like a smartphone.

Furthermore, this innovative backpack could be a lifeline for the elderly, helping them navigate the modern tech world without feeling left out. Its intuitive design and AI-powered features could bridge the gap between generations and empower individuals to stay connected and informed.

While the release date and availability of this futuristic backpack remain a mystery, there’s no denying that it represents a significant leap forward in wearable technology. In a world where technology continues to reshape our lives, this AI-powered backpack could be the next big thing, seamlessly integrating digital intelligence into our daily experiences. So, stay tuned for updates, because the future of backpacks might just be smarter than we ever imagined, and it could change the way we all interact with the world around us.

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Starfield-themed Xbox controller, headphones and smartwatch are must-have for action RPG lovers

At the annual Xbox Games Showcase 2023, Microsoft laid a major emphasis on its upcoming sci-fi RPG dubbed Starfield, along with the announcement of other major titles coming to the platform. But the highlighting bit for us was the announcement of Starfield Xbox controller and Starfield headphones.

At the event publisher Bethesda also unveiled the real-life version of Starfield’s Constellation Edition watch that’s modeled exactly after the one seen in the game. During the keynote, Bethesda made it clear that the timepiece is modeled after the design from the Apollo era and gets a special case to match the vibe.

Designer: Microsoft and Bethesda

Bethesda’s highly anticipated game is all set for a September 6th launch – thereby, the announcement of these accompanying accessories makes complete sense. First up we talk about the Starfield Limited Edition controller and headset that both complement each other.

The controller emulates the ship’s controls shown in the game with transparent pad triggers having bronze rumble motors and those metallic bronze hybrid directional pads add steampunk flair. Bethesda describes the retro design as a “NASA-Punk” in the DNA and I second that completely. On top of the clean design are the side and back grips mirroring the panels of the spaceship. The gamepad is easily switchable between devices like Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Windows PC, Android, and iOS.

Similar accents can be seen on the headset which gamers will absolutely love to wear all day long – whether gaming or listening to favorite music. It has a similar matching transparent and metallic bronze mic boom, elevating its look into the premium zone. The 312 grams wireless headphones come with, 40mm drivers, 15 hours battery and support for spatial audio technologies for greater immersion. The gamepad and the headphones can be pre-ordered right away for an ERP of $79 and $125 respectively.

Coming onto Starfield’s Constellation Edition timepiece that the main character wears, Bethesda has perfectly emulated it in real life with seamless phone connectivity. The watch comes with a collector’s case and steelbook copy of the game. While the watch in real life is more of a smartwatch beaming notifications and call prompts, in-game the watch behaves as a compass to show environmental information for planets.

This watch will only be available as part of the Constellation Edition priced at $300. The bundle gives 5-day early access to the Starfield game along with other goodies including Constellation Skin Pack, Constellation Patch and access to the digital artbook.

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Microsoft’s new Xbox controller is eco-friendly ‘remix’ of earth-tone colors

If you’re a gamer who looks for an ecological benefit in his gaming equipment, Microsoft has got you covered. An Xbox controller “Remix Special Edition” is making its debut this month and the gamepad is made from recycled materials for an eco-friendly Xbox setup with a visual appeal.

As the world becomes increasingly focused on reducing waste and preserving the planet, more and more peripheral manufacturers are looking for creative ways to repurpose old items. Microsoft has been in the thick of things for a while now and is now luring gaming enthusiasts and environmentalists alike with this piece of gaming legacy.

Designer: Xbox 

The new wireless Xbox controller – Remix Special Edition, is made from recycled plastic. Before you believe the entire thing is made from environmentally-friendly material; be informed that only one-third of it is made from regrind and reclaimed materials.

With the progress of things in the gaming industry, this subtle choice is also a significant change. The new Microsoft Xbox controller is made from “post-consumer recycled resins” with regrind comprising previously molded colored parts.

The plastic used is sourced from old Xbox One generation controllers and material from CDs, automotive headlight covers, and plastic jugs. This material is ground into minuscule particles to make new plastic for the Remix Special Edition controller. Since the mix of materials and colors is different, each controller – in earth tone colors and textured design – has a subtle variation this gives the Remix edition controller its own look and feel.

The Microsoft Remix Special Edition Xbox controller becomes eco-friendlier with the partnering Rechargeable Battery Pack. The controller with the battery will retail for $85. The pack will start shipping from April 18, so gamers be on their toes if they want to grab it before anyone else.

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This monolith-inspired Xbox controller concept is an overkill for gaming ergonomics

Gamers are divided as to which controller offers the best combination of ergonomic design, functionality, and strategic in-game advantage. While PlayStation 5 DualSense Edge has some unique features, Xbox comes Series X works for people who like a good in-hand feel.

I gravitate towards the Xbox Series X controller because of the button placement and the fact that it’s ideal for my small hands. While I would fancy a custom-designed one too, this Monolith Xbox Series controller concept has got me confused.

Designer: Nak Studio

Gone are the contoured stems that fit like a charm in the hand, giving way to the triangular-shaped ones. Of course, the controller is themed on the mysterious monolith objects found at different locations around the world which defines these sharp geometric shapes. The Xbox controllers’ signature lights colored form gives way to the glossy grey hue which is completely alien to what we’ve all seen over the years. The big Xbox branding on the sides looks cool though.

At first glance, one would presume the catamaran-like stems to be detachable, and only serve a purpose as desk stand for the controller, but they are in fact a part of the unibody design. Without doubt, the controller will be a bit uncomfortable to hold even for gamers with big hands, let alone mine. The placement of the shoulder trigger buttons also leaves a whole lot to be desired.

The design house has also created a matching Xbox console that I actually do like. While the controller I don’t vouch for because of its lack of ergonomic design, the console looks quite futuristic and a worthy upgrade to the boring Xbox Series X console. So, that addresses my quandary about the implementation of a monolith-inspired Xbox Series concept – the console is cool while the controller is definitely an overkill!

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