EVERYONE has reached an inflection point. As the global response to Covid-19 evolves, communities around the world have moved from an era of “remote everything” into a more hybrid model of work, learning and life. And as people scramble to keep up, the future of work and education is being shaped before their eyes.
Microsoft has spent the last few months learning from its customers and studying how they use its tools. It has also worked with experts across virtual reality, AI and productivity research to help understand the future of work. These findings, which are published here, guide Microsoft as it designs technology to help its customers today and in the future.
New features in Microsoft Teams will make virtual interactions more natural, more engaging and ultimately, more human. These features offer three key benefits for people at work and in education.
First, they help one feel more connected with his team and reduce meeting fatigue. Second, they make meetings more inclusive and engaging. And third, they help streamline one’s work and save time. It’s all about enabling people everywhere to collaborate, to stay connected, and to discover new ways to be productive from anywhere. Here are the details.
FEEL MORE CONNECTED AND REDUCE MEETING FATIGUE
Together mode is a new meeting experience in Teams that uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background, making it feel like one is sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class.
It’s great for meetings in which multiple people will speak, such as brainstorms or roundtable discussions, because it makes it easier for participants to understand who is talking. Together mode with auditorium view was made available in August. More views will be made available in the future.
While Together mode offers an extraordinary new meeting experience, it’s not intended for every meeting. Microsoft believes that traditional video meetings people use every day can also be more engaging and dynamic.
A set of enhancements called dynamic view gives one more control over how he sees shared content and other participants in a meeting. Using AI, meetings dynamically optimize shared content and video participants. New controls—including the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side—lets one personalize the view to suit his preferences and needs.
Everyone has become familiar with video filters used in photography and social media apps, and now Microsoft is bringing them to Teams. Before joining a meeting, one can use the filters to subtly adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of the camera to customize his appearance.
Reflect messaging extension
Microsoft’s research shows that employee well-being is more important to productivity than ever. Creating an emotionally supportive environment is key to keeping people healthy, happy and focused.
The new Reflect messaging extension gives managers, leaders and teachers an easy way to check in with how their team or students are feeling—either in general, or about a specific topic like work-life balance, the status of a project, current events, or a change within the organization.
MAKE MEETINGS MORE INCLUSIVE, ENGAGING AND EFFECTIVE
Non-verbal cues like smiles and head nods can be difficult to notice in online meetings, making it challenging for presenters to gauge audience reactions and for participants in large meetings to share a sentiment without interrupting the meeting flow. Soon, one will be able to react during a meeting using emojis that will appear to all participants.
Live reactions is a shared feature with PowerPoint Live Presentations, which allows audience members to provide instant feedback to the presenter. Microsoft is also bringing PowerPoint Live Presentations to Teams in the future, further enabling audience engagement right from Teams.
During meetings, chat has become a lively space for conversation and idea-sharing and offers an option for people to participate in the discussion without having to jump in verbally. But it can be challenging to pay attention to video feeds, presentations and chats all at the same time.
Previously, Teams users need to manually open a chat window to view the chat screen. But with chat bubbles, chats sent during a Teams meeting will surface on the screens of all meeting participants, making the chat more central to the conversation.
Speaker attribution for live captions and transcripts
While Teams already provides live captions to follow along with what is being said in a meeting, Microsoft will add speaker attribution to captions so that everyone knows who is speaking. Live transcripts provide another way to follow along with what has been said and who said it. After a meeting, the transcript file is automatically saved in a tab as a part of the meeting.
Note: Remarks made by participants joining from a conference room device will be attributed to the room rather than to the individuals in the room.
Interactive meetings for 1,000 participants and overflow
There are times when it’s important to bring large groups together for meetings or classes. For more interactive meetings—where attendees can chat, unmute to talk and turn on their videos for real-
time collaboration—Teams meetings are growing to support up to 1,000 participants. When you want to bring more people together to watch a presentation or discussion, Teams can support a view-only meeting experience for up to 20,000 participants.
Microsoft Whiteboard updates
Visual collaboration tools can make meetings and teaching environments more effective and inclusive. Whiteboard in Teams will include faster load times, sticky notes, text and drag and drop capabilities. These features enable team members who don’t have access to a touchscreen or Surface Hub to participate in whiteboarding sessions during Teams meetings.
STREAMLINE ONE’S WORK AND SAVE TIME
The Tasks app in Teams provides a new unified view of tasks from across Microsoft To Do, Planner and Outlook. Smart lists like “Assigned to me” bring tasks together across different shared plans, whether one is on desktop, web or mobile. One can add Tasks as a tab in a channel and get his familiar Planner tab experience with the new list view.
One can get his message across with just one tap! Suggested replies in Teams chat uses assistive AI to create short responses based on the context of the previous message. So the next time someone asks, “Do you have time to meet today?” one can respond “I sure do!” without even pulling up his keyboard.
Cortana in Teams
Cortana uses AI and the Microsoft Graph to provide voice assistance in Teams. To stay connected to one’s team even when he has his hands full, one can ask Cortana to make a call, join a meeting, send chat messages, share files and more.
These voice assistance experiences are delivered using Cortana enterprise-grade services that meet Microsoft 365 privacy, security and compliance commitments. Cortana will be available in the Teams mobile app on iOS and Android.
Microsoft Teams displays
Organizations need to enable their employees to set up more effective home office spaces while also preparing some to return to the office. To help, Microsoft is introducing the new Microsoft Teams display, a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices that feature an ambient touchscreen and a hands-free experience powered by Cortana.
With natural language, users can ask Cortana to join and present in meetings, dictate replies to a Teams chat and more. These devices seamlessly integrate with one’s PC, providing easy access to Teams chat, meetings, calling, calendar and files. And with a camera shutter and microphone mute switch, one’s conversations stay private.
Touchless meeting experiences
As some people begin to return to their worksites, touchless meeting experiences in shared spaces are more relevant than ever. Today, Teams enables people to join meetings and share content to meeting room devices from their own mobile device or PC. Later, Microsoft will enable these capabilities on Surface Hub as well.
Microsoft is building on these capabilities with a new room remote in the Teams mobile app, which will provide additional meeting controls such as the ability to leave the meeting, mute and unmute the room, adjust audio volume and turn cameras on and off.
Voice assistance will also be enabled for Microsoft Teams Room devices, allowing in-room participants to ask Cortana to join and leave a meeting, add a participant from the address book to a meeting using their name or phone number and more.
Microsoft is also introducing the ability to wirelessly cast to any Teams Room, collaboration bar or Surface Hub device, enabling seamless ad-hoc in-person collaboration for people in a shared space.
Note: Voice commands will launch first for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the U.S., in English. Not all Teams Room audio devices will support Cortana voice assistance.
Room remote for Microsoft Teams devices
Unless otherwise specified, all these features will roll out in late 2020. And they all reflect Microsoft’s vision for the future of work: where everyone can contribute and do their best work; where they can move fluidly between experiences, apps and devices; where AI lends a helping hand to streamline tasks, provide short cuts and save one time; and where technology contributes to wellbeing and doesn’t detract from it.
Working alongside its customers, Microsoft will continue reimagining the future of work and delivering technologies that put people at the center of every experience.
One can learn more and start his Microsoft Teams experience today! SPONSORED CONTENT