As the global response to COVID-19 evolves, communities around the world have moved from an era of “remote everything” into a more hybrid model of work, learning, and life. And as we all scramble to keep up, the future of work and education is being shaped before our eyes. 

Today, we are pleased announcing a set of new features in Microsoft Teams by our IT partner, Microsoft, 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:

  • 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.

It’s all about enabling people everywhere to collaborate, to stay connected, and to 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, research has shown that many of us feel less connected since moving 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 place participants in a shared background, making it feel like you’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 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 brainstorms or round-table discussions, because it makes it easier for participants to understand who is talking. 

Dynamic view—While Together mode offers an extraordinary new meeting experience, it’s not intended for every meeting. We believe that traditional video meetings 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 see shared content and other participants in a meeting. Using AI, meetings dynamically optimize shared content and video participants.

New controls—including the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side—let you personalize the view to suit your preferences and needs.

Dynamic view builds on the meetings enhancements Microsoft announced earlier, which include large gallery view, where you can see video of up to 49 people in a meeting simultaneously, and virtual breakout rooms, which allow meeting organizers to split meeting participants into smaller groups for things like brainstorming sessions or workgroup discussions.

Video filters—We’ve all become familiar with video filters used in photography and social media apps, and now we’re bringing them to Teams. Before joining a 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 — Research shows that employee well-being 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 in with how their team or students are feeling — either in general, or about a specific topic like work-life balance, the status of a project, current events, or a change within the organization. IT administrators will be able to install the Reflect extension from GitHub, and then make it available to employees in their organization in the message extension menu. Once installed, the extension provides suggested check-in questions and the ability to add custom questions that team members can respond to in a poll-like experience. Managers or teachers can also choose to make poll results anonymous. 

Make meetings more inclusive, engaging, and effective 

Live reactions—Non-verbal cues like smiles and head nods can be difficult to notice in online meetings, making it challenging for presenters to gauge audience reactions and for participants in large meetings to share a sentiment without interrupting the meeting flow. Soon, you will be able to react during a meeting using emojis that will appear to all participants. Live reactions is a shared feature with PowerPoint Live Presentations, which allows audience members to provide instant feedback to the presenter. PowerPoint Live Presentations to Teams in the future, further enabling audience engagement right from Teams.

An animated image of Live reactions.

Chat bubbles—During meetings, chat has become a lively space for conversation and idea-sharing, and offers an option for people to 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. Soon, however, chats sent during a Teams meeting will surface on the screens of all meeting participants, making the chat more central to the conversation. 

Speaker attribution for live captions and transcripts—While Teams already provides live captions as a way to follow along with what is being said in a meeting, soon we will add speaker attribution to captions so that everyone knows who is speaking. Live transcripts, coming later this year, provide another way to follow along with what has been said and who said it. After a meeting, the transcript file is automatically saved in a tab as a part of the meeting.

Note: Remarks 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 speaker attribution.Live Captions with speaker attribution

An animated image of Live transcription with speaker attribution.Live transcription with speaker attribution

Interactive meetings for 1,000 participants and overflow—There are times when it’s important to bring large groups together for meetings or classes. For more interactive meetings—where attendees can chat, unmute to talk, and turn on their videos for real-time collaboration—Teams meetings are growing to support up to 1,000 participants. When you want to bring more people together to watch a presentation or discussion, Teams can support a view-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 soon be updated with new features including faster load times, sticky notes, text, and drag and drop capabilities. These features enable team members who don’t have access to a touchscreen or Surface Hub to participate in whiteboarding sessions during Teams meetings.

An image of Microsoft Whiteboard updates.

Streamline your work and save time 

Tasks app–The Tasks app in Teams, rolling out this month, provides a new unified view of tasks from across Microsoft To Do, Planner, and Outlook. Smart lists like “Assigned to me” bring tasks together across different shared plans, whether you’re on 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—Get your message across with just one tap! 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!” without even pulling up your keyboard. This feature will be rolling out this month.

Cortana in Teams—Coming soon to the Teams mobile app, Cortana uses AI and the Microsoft Graph to provide voice assistance in Teams. To 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. These 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 on iOS and Android in the coming weeks for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the U.S. in English.

Microsoft Teams displays—Organizations need to enable their employees to set up more effective home office spaces while also preparing some to return to the office. To help, we’re introducing new Microsoft Teams display, a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices that feature an ambient touchscreen and a hands-free experience powered by Cortana. With natural language, users can ask Cortana to join and present in meetings, dictate replies to a Teams chat, and more. These devices seamlessly integrate with your PC, providing easy access to Teams chat, meetings, calling, calendar, and files. And with a camera shutter and microphone mute switch, your conversations stay private. The Lenovo ThinkSmart View will be the first Microsoft Teams display to market, and Yealink will deliver one of the first devices in this category too. Microsoft Teams displays with Cortana will be available in the U.S. starting later this year.

An image of PCs with Microsoft Teams desplays.

Touchless meeting experiences—As some people begin to return to their worksites, touchless meeting experiences in shared spaces are more relevant than ever. Today, Teams enables people to join meetings and share content to meeting room devices from their own mobile device or PC. Later this year, we’ll enable these capabilities on Surface Hub as well. We’re building on these capabilities with a new room remote in the Teams mobile app, which will provide additional meeting controls such as the ability to leave the meeting, mute and unmute the room, adjust audio volume, and turn cameras on and off. Beginning later this year, voice assistance will be enabled for Microsoft Teams Room devices, allowing in-room participants 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. We’re also introducing the ability to wirelessly cast to any Teams Room, collaboration bar, or Surface Hub device, enabling seamless ad-hoc in-person collaboration for people in a shared space.

Note: Voice commands will launch first for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the U.S., in English. Not all Teams Room audio devices will support Cortana voice assistance.

An image of Room remote for Microsoft Teams devices.
Room remote for Microsoft Teams devices

And they all reflect our vision for the future of work: where everyone is able to 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 you time; and where technology contributes to well being and doesn’t detract from it.

From the kickoff call to the project’s launch—and all points in-between—Teams is the place where people come together to get work done. Working alongside our customers, we’ll continue reimagining the future of work and delivering technologies that put people at the center of every experience.

New Power Platform features coming to Teams

New Power Platform features has been added to make it easier for customers to create, deploy and manage key business apps and chatbots directly within Microsoft Teams.

When this will happen

The rollout will begin in mid-August and be complete by the end of August.

[How this will affect your organization]

Microsoft 365 and Office 365 subscriptions that include Power Apps and Power Automate are expanding with the introduction of Microsoft Dataflex – a built-in, flexible datastore supporting relational, image and file data with a one-click experience for deploying solutions natively in Teams.

Your organization will be able to access these public preview features in Teams beginning in mid-August.

  • With Dataflex, Power Apps will provide an integrated app studio that allows you build and deploy custom apps within Teams.
  • You will also be able to build and deploy custom chatbots in Teams with the introduction of Power Virtual Agents.
  • Power Automate capabilities will be added also, including the ability to trigger flows directly from Teams messages.

This new Power Platform functionality for Teams is included at no additional cost with your Microsoft 365 and Office 365 licenses. Existing Power Platform functionality available for use in Office 365 more broadly outside of Teams remains unchanged.

[What you need to do to prepare]

Once this update is complete, you will see new service plans – Microsoft Dataflex and Power Virtual Agents for Teams – in the list of plans included with your subscription. These changes will not impact other features in your subscription, besides what is mentioned above. However, you may consider updating your internal documentation to reflect these additional capabilities, as needed.

The following admin controls are available in Teams Admin center to enable/disable the new functionality in public preview – 

  • App permissions policies: Admins can turn the Power Platform maker/builder experience off or on in Teams by selecting Power Apps and/or Power Virtual Agents applications available under ‘Microsoft Apps’. This setting is available for a specific set of users or for the tenant all up. More information on App permissions CONTACT US
  • Note: Admin controls to enable/disable new Power Platform deployment capabilities in Teams will not be available by public preview. This control will be introduced by GA in the Teams admin center.

Existing Power Platform functionality within Office 365 remains unchanged.

Office 365 A1 – Changes to Teams meeting recordings

For customers with Office 365 A1 and A1 Plus licenses, Teams meeting recordings will no longer automatically upload to Microsoft Stream effective August 20, 2020. 

[How this will affect your organization]

This change is expected to last through the end of 2020, and Microsoft will provide updates for further changes. Meetings recorded before August 20 are not affected by this change.

Following this change, your end users will continue to be able to record Teams meetings.

  • To playback the meeting recording, participants will need to download the file from the chat window.
  • To share or archive a recording, meeting participants will need to download the file and then upload it to Teams, Stream, SharePoint, or OneDrive.

Meeting recordings will be available in the meeting chat for a period of 21 days after the meeting. After 21 days, the meeting recordings will no longer be available for download from the chat.

The download dialog includes the expiration date.

[What you need to do to prepare]

Learn how to upload a video to Stream

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