Today, Teams has become the fastest growing business app in Microsoft’s illustrious history. It is helping more than 75 million users worldwide embrace the ‘new normal’ of remote working by enabling seamless virtual communication and collaboration. Teams has been helping remote working teams stay highly productive and organizations mitigate their business continuity roadblocks with its smart features.
However, with time, users have come to expect more from their favorite collaboration and communication platform. And Microsoft is not ready to disappoint them. As a part of its continued focus on making Teams a better platform for remote working and virtual collaboration, Microsoft has recently announced a range of new features and enhancements. As envisioned by Microsoft, these features would make “virtual interactions more natural, more engaging, and ultimately, more human”. These features offer three key benefits:
• They help you feel more connected with your team and reduce meeting fatigue.
• They make meetings more inclusive and engaging.
• They help streamline your work and save time.
Now that you are curious about the specifics of these new features, let’s dig into the details.
Features that help you feel more connected and reduce meeting fatigue
At a time when people are conducting more virtual meetings than ever before, many Teams users reported feeling less connected and experiencing more fatigue during video meetings, than in-person collaboration. Together mode is Microsoft’s attempt to correct this. It uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background, making users feel like you’re sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting. Together mode makes meetings more engaging by helping you focus on other people’s faces and body language and making it easier to pick up on the non-verbal cues that are so important to human interaction. It’s great for meetings in which multiple people will speak, such as brainstorming sessions or roundtable discussions, because it makes it easier for participants to understand who is talking. Together mode with auditorium view is rolling out now and will be generally available in August.
While Together mode offers an extraordinary new meeting experience, it’s not intended for every meeting. The dynamic view feature makes traditional video meetings more engaging. It gives you more control over how you see shared content and other participants in a meeting. Using AI, the feature dynamically optimizes shared content and video participants. It brings new controls such as: the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side and lets you personalize the view to suit your preferences and needs.
Most of you are familiar with video filters used in photography and social media apps, and now this feature is coming to Teams. Before joining any meeting, you can use the filters to subtly adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of the camera to customize your appearance.
Reflect Messaging Extension
Creating an emotionally supportive environment is essential to keep your people healthy, happy, focused, and productive. Reflect messaging extension delivers a convenient way for managers and leaders to check in with how their team members are feeling about general or specific topics. The extension suggests relevant check-in questions and allows managers to add custom questions that team members can respond to in a poll-like experience. The Reflect messaging extension can be installed by IT admins from GitHub in the coming weeks.
Features that make your meetings more inclusive, and effective
Non-verbal cues like smiles and head nods can be difficult to notice during virtual meetings, making it challenging for presenters to gauge audience reactions and for participants in large meetings to share their sentiment without interrupting the flow of the meeting. The live reactions feature allows you to react during a meeting using emojis that will appear to all participants. Live reactions allow the audience members to provide instant feedback to the presenter.
Chat has become a lively space for conversation and idea-sharing, during meetings. Users can 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. Currently, Teams users need to manually open a chat window to view the chat screen. However, pretty soon chats sent during a Teams meeting will surface on the screens of all meeting participants, making the chat more central to the conversation.
Pin Important Chats for Quick Reference
While there are many chat messages that require only a single glance, others may contain information one might want to reference later. For such instances, it is recommended to use the “Pin” tool. Hover mouse over the conversation you’d like to keep track of, right-click, and select “pin”. The message will move upwards into the “Pinned” conversations group.
Speaker Attribution for Live Captions and Transcripts
While Teams already provides live captions as a way to follow what is being said in a meeting, soon it will add speaker attribution to captions so that everyone knows who is speaking. Live transcripts, coming later this year, provide another way to follow what has been said and who said it. After a meeting, the transcript file will be automatically saved in a tab as a part of the meeting.
Interactive Meetings for 1,000 Participants and More
There are times when it’s important to bring large groups of people together for meetings. Identifying this, Teams meetings would now support up to 1,000 participants. If you want to invite even more people to watch a presentation or discussion, Teams can support a view-only meeting experience for up to 20,000 participants.
Updates on Microsoft Whiteboard
Visual collaboration tools can make meetings more effective. To facilitate better visual collaboration Whiteboard in Teams will soon be updated with new features including faster load times, sticky notes, text, and drag and drop capabilities.
Features to help you streamline work and save time
The Tasks app in Teams, rolling out later this month, provides a new unified view of tasks from across Microsoft To Do, Planner, and Outlook apps. Smart lists like “Assigned to me” bring tasks together across different shared plans, whether you’re working on a desktop, web, or mobile. Add Tasks as a tab in a channel and get your familiar Planner tab experience with the new list view.
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 you “Do you have time to meet today?” you can respond “I sure do!” with just one tap and without any typing.
Voice Assistance in Teams
This feature is coming to the Teams mobile app. Cortana would help you stay connected to your team even when you have your hands full. You can ask Cortana to make a call, join a meeting, send chat messages, share files, and more. Such 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 (for iOS and Android devices) for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users.
Touchless Meeting Experiences
As some people begin to return to worksites, touchless meeting experiences in shared spaces are more relevant than ever. Presently, Teams enables people to join meetings and share content in meeting rooms from their mobile device or PC. However, later this year, such capabilities would be available on Surface Hub as well. Additionally, the introduction of voice assistance to Teams would allow users 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.
Build apps, Chatbots and visualize data without leaving Teams
Microsoft announced Microsoft Dataflex during Microsoft Inspire 2020. This solution aims to improve the Microsoft Power Platform integration with Teams. It delivers a built-in, low-code data platform for Teams, and provides relational data storage, rich data types, enterprise grade governance, and one-click solution deployment. Microsoft Dataflex enables everyone to easily build and deploy apps and intelligent chatbots in Teams with Microsoft Power Apps and Microsoft Power Virtual Agents.
With these new features, Teams is all set to become a powerful collaboration platform 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 time; and where technology contributes to the wellbeing and doesn’t detract from it.