Reimagining virtual collaboration for the future of work and learning – Microsoft 365 Blog

We have reached a turning point. As the global response to COVID-19 evolves, communities around the world have moved from an era of "remote everything" to a more hybrid model of work, learning and life. And as we all struggle to keep up-to-date, the future of work and education is being formed before our eyes. At Microsoft, we spend the past few months learning from our customers and studying how they use our tools. We have also worked with experts in virtual reality, AI and productivity research to help understand the future of work. These findings, published here, guide us as we design technology to help our customers today and in the future.

Today we announce a set of new features in Microsoft Teams that make virtual interactions more natural, more engaging, and ultimately more human. These features offer three key benefits for people at work and in education. First, they help you feel more connected to your team and reduce meeting fatigue. Second, they make meetings more inclusive and engaging. And third, they help optimize your work and save time. It's about enabling people around the world to collaborate, stay connected, and discover new ways to be productive from anywhere. Let's dig into the details.

Feel more connected and reduce meeting fatigue

Together Mode —At a time when people are conducting more virtual meetings than ever, our research has shown that many of us have felt less connected since then . Shift to remote work and experience more fatigue during video meetings than during in-person collaboration. Together mode is a new meeting experience in Teams that uses AI segmentation technology to digitally locate participants in a shared environment, making them feel like they're sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class. Together mode makes meetings more engaging by helping you focus on other people's faces and body language, and makes it easier to spot the non-verbal cues that are so important to human interaction. It is ideal for meetings where multiple people will speak, such as brainstorming or round tables, because it makes it easier for participants to understand who is speaking. Joint mode with auditorium view is now being implemented and will be generally available in August. And we will bring more views to Together mode in the future.

Dynamic view: While Together mode offers a new extraordinary meeting experience, it is not intended for all meetings. We believe that traditional video meetings that people use every day can also be more engaging and dynamic. A set of enhancements we call dynamic view gives you more control over how you view shared content and other participants in a meeting. Using AI, meetings dynamically optimize shared content and video participants. New controls, including the ability to display shared content and specific participants side by side, allow you to customize the view to suit your preferences and needs. The dynamic view is based on the meeting enhancements we announced last month, including large gallery view (to be released in August), where you can watch videos of up to 49 people in a meeting simultaneously, and virtual meeting rooms that allow meeting organizers to break up meeting participants into smaller groups for things like brainstorming sessions or working group discussions.

Dynamic view   An image of the new large gallery view. Large Gallery View

Video Filters —We have all become familiar with the video filters used in photography and social media applications, and are now bringing them to Teams . Before joining a meeting, you can use filters to subtly adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of the camera to customize its appearance.

 An animated image of background filters.

Reflect message length: Our research shows that employee wellness is more important to productivity than ever. Creating an emotionally supportive environment is key to keeping people healthy, happy, and focused. The new Reflect messaging extension gives managers, leaders, and teachers an easy way to check how their team or students are feeling, whether in general or on a specific topic such as work-life balance, the state of a project, current events, or a change within the organization. IT administrators will be able to install the GitHub Reflect extension and then make it available to employees in their organization in the message extension menu. Once installed, the extension provides suggested registration questions and the ability to add custom questions that team members can answer in a survey-like experience. Managers or teachers can also choose to make the survey results anonymous. The Reflect message extension will be available in the coming weeks.

 An image of the reflect message extension.

Make meetings more inclusive, engaging, and effective

Live reactions: Nonverbal cues such as smiles and nods can be difficult to notice in online meetings, which makes it difficult for presenters to assess audience reactions and for large meeting participants to share a feeling without interrupting the flow of the meeting. Soon, you will be able to react during a meeting using emojis that will appear for all the participants. Live Reactions is a feature shared with PowerPoint Live Presentations, which allows audience members to provide instant feedback to the presenter. We are also bringing live PowerPoint presentations to teams in the future, further allowing audience participation from teams.

 An animated image of live reactions.

Chat bubbles— During meetings, chat has become a lively space for conversation and brainstorming, and offers an option for people to participate in the discussion without having to intervene verbally. But paying attention to videos, presentations, and chats at the same time can be a challenge. Currently, Teams users must manually open a chat window to view the chat screen. Soon, however, chats sent during a Team meeting will appear on the screens of all meeting participants, making chat more central to the conversation.

Speaker attribution for captions and live transcripts— While Teams already provides live captions as a way to follow up on what is being said in a meeting, we will soon add speaker attribution to the subtitles so that everyone knows who is talking. 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 is automatically saved in a tab as part of the meeting.

Note: Observations made by participants joining from a conference room device will be attributed to the room rather than to the individuals in the room.

  An animated image of Live Captions with announcer attribution. Live Captions with broadcaster attribution

  An animated image of Live transcription with broadcaster attribution. Live transcription with announcer's voice over

Interactive meetings for 1,000 participants and overflow— There are times when it is important to bring together large groups for meetings or classes. For more interactive meetings, where attendees can chat, stop talking, and activate their videos to collaborate in real time, team meetings are growing to accommodate up to 1,000 participants. When you want to gather more people to watch a presentation or discussion, teams can support a read-only meeting experience for up to 20,000 participants.

Microsoft Whiteboard Updates: Visual collaboration tools can make meetings and teaching environments more effective and inclusive. Whiteboard in Teams will be updated soon with new features including faster load times, sticky notes, text, and drag and drop capabilities. These features allow team members who do not have access to a touch screen or Surface Hub to participate in whiteboard sessions during team meetings.

 An image of updates to the Microsoft whiteboard.

Streamline your work and save time

Task app – The team task app, to be released this month, provides a new unified view of Microsoft To Do tasks, Planner and Outlook. Smart lists like "Assigned To Me" bring tasks together into different shared plans, whether you're on a desktop, web, or mobile computer. Add Tasks as a tab in a channel and get your family experience with the Scheduler tab with the new list view.

Suggested responses— Get your message across with just a touch! Suggested responses in the Teams chat use Assisted 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 answer "Of course yes!" without even lifting your keyboard. This feature will launch this month.

Cortana in teams— Coming soon to the Teams mobile app, Cortana uses AI and Microsoft Graph to provide voice assistance in teams. To stay connected to your team even when your hands are busy, you can ask Cortana to make a call, join a meeting, send chat messages, share files, and more. These voice assistance experiences are delivered using Cortana's enterprise-grade services that meet Microsoft 365's privacy, security, and compliance commitments. Cortana will be available on the Teams mobile app on iOS and Android in the coming weeks for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the United States in English.

Microsoft Teams Screens: Organizations should allow their employees to establish more effective home office spaces while preparing some to return to the office. To help, we introduce the new Microsoft Teams display, a new category of dedicated all-in-one Teams devices featuring an environmental touchscreen and hands-free experience powered by Cortana. With natural language, users can ask Cortana to join and introduce themselves to meetings, dictate responses to a Teams chat, and more. These devices integrate seamlessly with your PC, providing easy access to Teams chat, meetings, calls, calendar, and files. And with the camera shutter and microphone mute switch, your conversations are kept private. Lenovo ThinkSmart View will be the first Microsoft Teams display on the market, and Yealink will also offer one of the first devices in this category. Microsoft Teams screens with Cortana will be available in the US starting this year.

 A PC image with scrolls from Microsoft Teams.

Contactless meeting experiences— Like some people When they begin to return to their workplaces, contactless meeting experiences in shared spaces are more relevant than ever. Today, Teams allows people to join meetings and share content on meeting room devices from their own mobile device or PC. Later this year, we'll also enable these capabilities on the Surface Hub. We are developing these capabilities with a new remote room in the Teams mobile app, which will provide additional meeting controls such as the ability to leave the meeting, mute and mute the room, adjust the volume audio and turn cameras on and off. Starting this year, voice assistance will be enabled for Microsoft Teams Room devices, allowing room participants to ask Cortana to join and leave a meeting, add a participant from the Address book to a meeting using your name or phone number, and more. We also introduced the ability to stream wirelessly to any team room, collaboration bar, or Surface Hub device, enabling seamless ad-hoc in-person collaboration for people in a shared space.

Note: Voice commands will be released first for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the US, in English. Not all Teams Room audio devices will support Cortana's voice assistance.

  An image of the room remote control for Microsoft Teams devices.
Remote room control for Microsoft Teams devices

Unless otherwise specified, all of these features will be activated later this year.

And they all reflect our vision for the future of work: where everyone can contribute and do their best work; where they can move seamlessly between experiences, apps, and devices; where AI lends a helping hand to streamline tasks, provide shortcuts, and save you time; and where technology contributes to well-being and does not detract from it.

From initial call to project launch, and all points in between, teams are the place where people come together to get the job done. Working alongside our clients, we will continue to reinvent the future of work and provide technologies that place people at the center of every experience.

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