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Microsoft Ignite brings enhancements to Teams, including support for up to 20,000 participants

By Ken Wong - on 23 Sep 2020, 5:44pm

Microsoft Ignite brings enhancements to Teams, including support for up to 20,000 participants

At Ignite 2020, Microsoft's annual conference for developers and IT professionals, the tech giant announced a series of features for Teams some of which are new, while others build on features announced a while ago. Some of them are available now with some arriving only next year.

Launched earlier this year, the Together mode places participants in a shared background while still showing participants’ faces and body language. Ignite launches Together mode scenes later this year, to include auditoriums, conference rooms, and a coffee shop. Presenters will be able to select a scene from the gallery as the default for all meeting attendees and using machine learning to automatically scale and centre meeting participants in their virtual seats, regardless of how close or far they are from their camera, creating a more realistic visual experience.

Custom layouts, coming later this year, custom layouts will allow presenters to customise how content shows up for participants during the meeting. For example, when a presenter is showing a PowerPoint slide, participants will be able to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the slide they’re showing.

One problem commonly experienced during video conferences is note-taking. Teams now solves this with a recap created that records, transcribes, shares files if needed. This recap function will be available for sharing in Microsoft 365 soon.         

Coming in October, breakout rooms will allow meeting organizers to split up meeting participants into smaller groups much like Zoom has had. Presenters can choose to hop between breakout rooms, make announcements to all breakout rooms, and/or close the breakout rooms to bring everybody back into the main meeting. This can be useful during employee training sessions to allow them to break out into groups for a discussion then bringing everyone back together again for sharing.

Microsoft says that 20 partners including HireVue, ServiceNow, Range, Buncee, and PagerDuty are using new Teams meeting extensions and be available in October, integrating their apps and Teams.

Teams meetings are growing to support up to 1,000 participants with the full meeting experience by the end of the year. For larger meetings and events that require additional control, Teams will soon scale to support 20,000 participants in a view-only meeting experience that includes the ability to use live captions. These new capabilities will only be available to customers with the new Advanced Communications plan.


Dealing with employee health issues

While Covid-19 has helped drive the adoption of video conferencing apps like Teams, Microsoft acknowledges that the Work From Home (WFH) drive has resulted in us spending more time communicating with one another digitally, and often outside of traditional work hours.

As Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365 put it, “While it’s great to connect with our teammates, we all need reminders to take time to detach from work in order to preserve our wellbeing.”

To help us do this, Microsoft is introducing some “Wellbeing experiences” in Teams.

Available in the first half of 2021, Teams will allow you to schedule a virtual commute that helps you have a transition at the beginning and end of the workday to give you a “productive start in the morning and mindful disconnect in the evening.”

Microsoft has also partnered with Headspace to bring a curated set of mindfulness experiences and science-backed meditations into the flow of work in Microsoft Teams to reduce stress and burnout.