Yesterday, ambitious to grow their 75 million daily user audience and in the face of significant competition from Zoom, Microsoft announced a swathe of new features likely to improve to the way we collaborate and engage with colleagues.

We’ve reached a pivot point in this COVID crisis; a transition from “remote everything” as a reaction to government level lockdowns, to a hybrid model of work that will see some us in limited numbers, in a limited capacity, return to the office. That return may not be with us all immediately (indeed, some companies have made it clear they don’t expect any return to the office in the near future), so the majority of us are still relying on technology not just for productivity, but also for collaboration, engagement, communication and support.

Microsoft announces further Teams features

Together Mode

Microsoft research teams have conducted detailed studies demonstrating that people genuinely do find remote collaboration more challenging – that ‘virtual meeting fatigue’ we’ve all been feeling is real.

Given that the virtual meeting will be a mainstay of business for many more months to come, one solution coming to Teams soon, is Together Mode.

Together Mode uses AI technology to place meeting participants in a shared background to visually and emotionally make it feel like you’re working in the same room. Their research has shown that it reduces background distractions and makes it easier to pick up on non-verbal cues and make conversations feel more natural. Incredibly, Together Mode means it requires less mental effort to participate and reduces virtual meeting fatigue.

Together Mode is rolling out now, but will be generally available in August

Dynamic View

In addition to the switch from 4, to 9, to 49 video streams, Microsoft have been looking at ways to address the visual experience of using Teams.

Dynamic View uses Microsoft AI to dynamically optimise the shared content and video participants, including the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side. Whether its people or content that’s the star of the show, Dynamic View will give the ability to tailor the visual experience and make it work better for participants.

Dynamic View, alongside a large gallery view (the 49 users) and virtual breakout rooms, represents a big step forward for Microsoft Teams.

Filters

We don’t all have optimal lighting or camera equipment when joining Team calls, so Microsoft will be adding video filters so that you can be seen in your best light. You’ll be able to adjust the lighting levels and soften the focus so colleagues can see the best you!

Live Reactions

Non-verbal cues like head nods and smiles can be difficult to see in a virtual meeting, so Live Reactions will be a new way to engage with materials and respond to the presentation. Live Reactions are emojis, seen by all, so you provide feedback to the presenter and other participants, like those in other platforms like Facebook Live.

Chat bubbles

The Teams chat pane is a staple of the virtual meeting but is often lost in the flow of the meeting and can feel largely peripheral – a place to share links, but not ideal to engage in the meeting. Chat bubbles will surface directly within the meeting meaning the conversation becomes a central part of the engagement and collaboration.

Whiteboard updates

Whiteboard is a feature we want to love but somehow fails in collaborative execution. Microsoft Whiteboard will be getting a bunch of new features including sticky notes, drag and drop and text boxes. We hope that these features, combined with promises of faster load times, will make this feature a practical, valuable addition to the Teams experience.

[caption. Our whiteboarding *NEVER* looks like this!]

Suggested replies

Say what you need to say with minimal effort! Using Microsoft AI, a new suggested replies feature will be deployed to Teams chat in July which will provide you with a few likely responses to speed up the conversation. “Thanks”, “I appreciate” may feel a little insincere when coming from an AI engine but we’ll all appreciate the communication efficiency.

So that’s the Microsoft Teams round up – some brilliant new features hitting your screens soon.

THE AUTHOR

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