Microsoft Teams is unleashing a host of new interactive features, including a Together mode
Microsoft wants us to use Teams to all get Together
Note: This article was first published on 9th July 2020.
As working from home and the growing popularity of tools for video conferencing becomes the ‘new normal’, Microsoft has announced a slew of new features for Microsoft Teams that the company says will help to make you feel “more connected to people at work and school, reduce video fatigue, make meetings more inclusive and engaging, and to streamline your work to save time.”
With the features arriving over the next few months, some of them are Team’s attempts to catch up to the competition with others aimed at helping it stand out.
Understanding how we work from home
Microsoft did some research on how we work from home and some of the key findings they discovered helped shape some of the new features in Teams.
Firstly, around remote working, people found remote collaboration more mentally challenging. Also, strangely challenging was that people who worked well remotely didn’t do as well face to face, which could make things difficult when people start to return to the workplace.
Secondly, perhaps unsurprisingly, brainwave markers associated with overwork and stress are significantly higher in video meetings than non-meeting work like writing emails, and concentration fatigue begins to set in 30-40 minutes into a meeting.
It turns out that it is really hard for our brains to sustain concentration while we’re having to focus continuously on the screen to extract relevant information and stay engaged; reduced non-verbal cues that help you read the room or know whose turn it is to talk; and screen sharing with very little view of the people you are interacting with.
Enhancing Teams interactions
Some of the main enhancements to reduce fatigue include:
Together mode allows virtual meeting participants to appear together in a shared background like a meeting room, auditorium etc. helping them feel like they’re together, through the use of AI. Microsoft says that this helps makes meetings more engaging, and helps users pick up on non-verbal cues that are so important to human interaction. Together Mode with auditorium view is rolling out now and will be generally available in August.
Announced last month, Dynamic view allows users to personalise the view to suit their preferences and needs. This includes the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side.
Before joining a meeting, users can now use Video filters to adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of the camera to customise their appearances.
Managers, leaders and teachers can check in on how their teams or students are feeling through questions in an online poll called Reflect messaging extension. This will be available in the coming weeks.
Other changes are aimed to make Teams more interactive and engaging. These include:
Attendees can use Live reactions to during meetings using emojis, supplementing non-verbal cues that can be difficult to notice in online meetings. Microsoft is also bringing PowerPoint Live Presentations to Teams in the future, enabling more audience engagement.
Chat bubbles allow all chats sent during a Microsoft Teams meeting to appear on the screens of all meeting participants, making the chat more central to the conversation.
With Speaker attribution, everyone knows who is speaking with Live transcripts and translations, available later this year, provide a way to follow what has been said in more than one language.
Teams meetings went can now support up to 1,000 participants, and up to 20,000 participants to watch a presentation or discussion.
Whiteboard in Microsoft Teams will soon be updated with new features including faster load times, sticky notes, text, and drag-and-drop capabilities. These will enable team members without access to a touchscreen to participate in whiteboarding sessions.
Users may log in to their personal Microsoft account on the Microsoft Teams mobile app, available for download on the iOS or Android app store. General availability of the new features is slated for later this year.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is also adding new Cortana capabilities to the Teams mobile apps for iOS and Android. Users will be able to make calls, join meetings, send chat messages, and more with just their voice. This feature will be coming to the Teams mobile apps soon.
Rosalind Quek, General Manager, Modern Work, Asia Solution Sales at Microsoft Asia said:
“Our research has shown that many of us feel less connected since moving to remote work, hence we want to bring a more human element into online meetings. We also want to streamline their experiences across apps and devices, with technology like AI to save time and improve overall well-being, which is of the highest importance during this time.”
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