Despite recent pressure from the White House, schools and businesses across the country are unlikely to resume in-person functions for the foreseeable future due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But going “online-only” has posed challenges of its own. However, Microsoft Team’s brand new slew of updates and features seek to address some of those problems and make this new era of physical isolation just a little less exhausting.
Microsoft hopes to help attendees of online meetings feel more connected to everyone else on the call using AI-driven processes. For example, Together Mode is designed to combat Zoom Fatigue by leveraging segmentation technology to set the call participants on a shared background “making it feel like you’re sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class,” according to a Wednesday press release. Doing so reportedly helps people focus on the nonverbal cues of the other folks on the call. That feature is expected to roll out next month. Conversely, Microsoft is also releasing Dynamic View which gives call moderators more control over how shared content is displayed during a meeting by automatically optimizing the featured content and participants. For example if Bill from Accounting has the latest quarter’s sales numbers the call mod can push his spreadsheet and his video feed to the forefront of the meeting.
Additionally, Teams will now host a variety of Instagram-esque photo and video filters as well as reaction emojis, given how difficult it can be to pick up on the nonverbal cues of other callers. Microsoft is also releasing a Reflect messaging extension which will enable teachers and managers to check-in with their subordinates with poll questions. Because who doesn’t like polls? They’re just so much more dehumanizing for students and workers than simply having the boss ask you how you’ve been holding up and if everything is OK.