For many employees in Germany, working in the home office is still part of the “new normal” of everyday work in times of the corona crisis. Business trips and personal meetings were replaced by video conferences. Tools such as WebEx, Zoom or Microsoft Teams are now a matter of course for home workers.
But especially with Microsoft teams, many mobile worker missing and missing features that have long been standard with competing products – such as their own picture backgrounds or the scalability of the participants. Criticisms that do not go unheard at Microsoft. For example, the company improved in April with an update and introduced the possibility of its own background (see also our tips collection “Use Microsoft Teams optimally”). But that’s not all.
Microsoft plans a whole bunch of new features for its collaboration platform by the end of the year. The roadmap provides over a dozen new features that make working together more agile and create more connection in virtual teams and thus take the reality of a hybrid work model into account. The innovations include:
This function places all participants in a team meeting using artificial intelligence (AI) against a common background. Not only would users feel like they were sitting in the same room as their colleagues, they could also focus better on the faces and body language of others. According to Microsoft, Together Mode with auditorium view is currently being introduced. It will be generally available from August. A blog post in English on using Together Mode can be found here.
This innovation is intended to make team meetings more interactive and dynamic. The company is improving the viewing options for this. AI-assisted gives users more control over how shared content and other participants are displayed in a meeting. In future, new controls can also be used to dynamically adapt the view to your own preferences and needs, and for example shared content and certain participants can be displayed side by side. Dynamic View builds on the improvements for meetings that were announced last month: the large gallery view enables videos of up to 49 people to be viewed simultaneously in a meeting. There is also the option of dividing the participants into smaller groups. For this purpose, the meeting organizer creates virtual side rooms.
Live subtitles and transcriptions
Live subtitles in teams should make it easier to track meetings in the future. These subtitles should also be supplemented with the names of the speakers. Later, it is also planned to translate the live subtitles so that users can follow them synchronously in another language. Over the course of the year, Microsoft said teams will also have live translations that support participants in multilingual meetings. These text insets are also automatically saved in the chat window of the meeting and can be called up afterwards.
Meetings with more than 1,000 participants
Microsoft is also responding to the criticism of the lack of scalability of teams compared to other solutions. They wanted to increase the number of active participants to 1,000, it said. In addition to being able to chat as before, they should also be able to unmute and switch on their video cameras in order to actively participate in the meeting. If it is only a matter of transmitting a presentation or discussion, the meetings can even be scaled up to 20,000 participants.
In the future, teams will also integrate video filters known from social media. This means, for example, that the lighting can be adjusted before a meeting or the focus of the camera can be adjusted so that the participant can then be seen better in the picture.
How are the employees in the home office? Getting an answer to this seemingly trivial question is a real challenge from a manager’s perspective. The Reflect Messaging team expansion could offer support in the future: It offers ready-made or user-defined questions, for example about work-life balance, but also about specific projects or changes in the team, to which team members can respond in their teams channel – also anonymous. This new feature is said to be available in the coming weeks.
Nonverbal characters such as smiles or nods are often hidden in large video reviews. This is supposed to change Live Reactions, a feature of PowerPoint Live Presentations. It makes it easier for participants with special emojis to interact with others and thus enables immediate feedback. In the future, the integration of PowerPoint Live Presentations in teams is planned to enable the interactive participation of the viewers directly from teams.
The chat in virtual meetings is now often used to exchange complementary ideas. However, it can be a real challenge to focus on the live stream, presentations and chat at the same time. Microsoft will therefore show live the chats that are broadcast during a team session. This is how you see all participants on their screens.
Updates for Microsoft Whiteboard
Microsoft promises more interaction in teams with this innovation for users who do not have a touchscreen or Surface Hub. Post-it’s, faster loading times and a new drag & drop function make it easier for users to take part in interactive whiteboard sessions in teams.
The introduction of the new Tasks app in teams is planned for July. It enables a comprehensive overview of all open and individually assigned tasks from Microsoft To Do, Planner and Outlook. Users can add these tasks as a new tab in teams or, as before, view them in teams in the Planner. In the desktop client, the new function is initially displayed under the name Planner and then temporarily as Tasks by Planner and To Do. Then the function will be called Tasks. In the mobile teams application, tasks appear immediately under this name. However, there may be a delay in the availability in the mobile teams app.
Artificial intelligence will make it possible to send ready-made answers in team chats in the future. If a user is asked, for example, whether he has time for a meeting, he can answer “but surely” without having to press a single additional key. The new function will also be introduced in July.
Cortana in teams
The personal assistance software Cortana, familiar from Windows 10, has also found its way into the mobile teams application. Cortana should help the user to keep their hands free. Using voice control, he can start calls, dial into a meeting or send chat messages and files. Cortana should be available in the mobile teams app on iOS and Android in the coming weeks – but initially only in English for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the USA.
Displays for Microsoft teams
With a new generation of “all-in-one” devices, the group plans to introduce special displays for Microsoft teams this year in cooperation with partners. The devices have a touchscreen, a hands-free system and voice control by Cortana. The devices can be seamlessly coupled with PCs and laptops and should also offer easy access to team chats and meetings as well as to calendars and data. The first devices of this type will be the Lenovo ThinkSmart View and a device from Yealink. The devices will initially be available in the United States at the end of the year.