Microsoft today announced that the latest slew of features coming to Microsoft Teams for people at work and in education. This batch aim to “make virtual interactions more natural, more engaging, and ultimately, more human.” The majority of the additions are powered by AI, including Together Mode, Dynamic View, Cortana, suggested replies, and speaker attribution and translation for live captions and transcripts. Other new features include video filters, a Reflect messaging extension, live reactions, chat bubbles, support for more participants, Whiteboard updates, and a new Tasks app.
Microsoft Teams is the company’s Office 365 chat-based collaboration tool that competes with Slack, Facebook’s Workplace, and Google Chat, though lately it has shifted its competitive focus to Zoom, which has exploded during the pandemic to lead the video calling space. Microsoft Teams is the company’s fastest-growing business app ever. That was true in 2018, long before lockdowns started juicing up remote work and learning numbers. Microsoft’s Jeff Teper recently told VentureBeat that Teams “will be even bigger than Windows.” As of April, Microsoft Teams had 75 million daily active users, up 70% from just six weeks prior.
Together Mode and Dynamic View
Together Mode is the feature Microsoft is most excited about. It’s a new meeting experience that uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background. Microsoft says this is meant to make it feel like you’re sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class.
Microsoft claims 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 nonverbal cues that are so important to human interaction.” The company expects it will be useful for meetings in which multiple people will speak, such as brainstorms or roundtable discussions.
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Microsoft acknowledges that Together Mode is “not intended for every meeting.” To make traditional video meetings people use every day more engaging and dynamic, the company is unveiling Dynamic View, which gives you more control over how you see shared content and other participants in a meeting. This view uses AI to dynamically optimize shared content and video participants.
It also includes new controls that let you show shared content and specific participants side-by-side. Dynamic View should not be confused with Gallery View, which last month Microsoft announced is expanding to support up to 49 people in a meeting simultaneously, matching Zoom. At the time, the company also announced virtual breakout rooms, which let meeting organizers split meeting participants into smaller groups for things like brainstorming sessions or workgroup discussions.
Cortana, suggested replies, and speaker attribution
When you think of Microsoft and AI, you probably think of the Cortana assistant, which the company has refocused on the enterprise. For Teams, that means Cortana is coming to the Teams app for Android and iOS where it will use AI and the Microsoft Graph to provide voice assistance.
You’ll be able to ask Cortana to make a call, join a meeting, send chat messages, share files, and so on. Microsoft promises to use Cortana enterprise-grade services that meet Microsoft 365 privacy, security, and compliance commitments. Cortana will be limited to Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the U.S. in English for now.
Suggested replies in Teams chat will use assistive AI to create short responses based on the context of the previous message. This is not much different than Google’s Smart Reply. If someone asks you “Do you have time to meet today?” Teams will suggest “I sure do!” so you don’t have to pull up your keyboard.
Microsoft Teams already provides live captions so everyone can follow what is being said in a meeting. Now Microsoft is adding speaker attribution to captions so that everyone knows who is speaking. That also enables Microsoft to offer live transcripts — after a meeting, the transcript file is automatically saved in the chat tab for that meeting. Microsoft will also add the ability to translate live captions into subtitles so you can follow along in a language other than the one being spoken.
When Microsoft announces new features for Teams, it’s not always clear when exactly each one will be available. So we asked the company to break it down, and here’s the result:
- Together Mode with auditorium view is rolling out now and will be generally available in August.
- Dynamic View will roll out later this year.
- Large gallery view is rolling out in August.
- Virtual breakout rooms are coming in the fall.
- Reflect messaging extension will be available in the coming weeks.
- Live reactions are coming soon.
- Chat bubbles are coming soon.
- Speaker attribution for live captions and transcripts is coming soon.
- The ability to translate live captions into subtitles is coming later this year.
- Tasks App in Teams is rolling out this month.
- Smart Replies will be generally available in July.
- Cortana in Teams is coming soon to the Teams mobile app.
- Microsoft Teams displays with Cortana will be available in the U.S. starting later this year.
- Touchless Meeting Experiences, including a new room remote in the Teams mobile app, voice commands, and the ability to wirelessly cast to any Teams Room, is coming at the end of 2020.
- PowerPoint Live Presentations coming to Teams in the future.
- Interactive meetings for 1,000+ (large meeting support) is coming at the end of 2020.
- Microsoft Whiteboard Updates are coming in August 2020.
- Video filters is coming at the end of 2020.