Microsoft has announced a bunch of new features coming to its Teams platform before the new year, some of which are right on par with its competition, and some of which are new and different --- and we’re excited!
The new features, which Microsoft disclosed via a blog post on July 8, are supposed to make chats, meetings, and other collaborations less tiring and more productive. These new releases; such as the much-anticipated ability to see 49 people on screen at once, will be reaching end-users as soon as the new few days.
The ability to view 49 people at once will be especially great for remote classrooms. This feature, called large gallery, can now be enabled from the meetings control bar, on top of the meeting screen, and is available for video calls with 10 or more participants. What's even better is Microsoft is not stopping with 49 users. They are planning to eventually add support for up to 1,000 participants on a single call. It will also be adding the ability for up to 20,000 users to watch presentations or discussions in Teams.
Teams users who enable this new feature will notice that calls and meetings pop out into their own window aside from the main Teams window. Because of the separate windows feature, meeting notes are now taken on the meeting's meeting notes tab in the main Teams window.
Another new feature Microsoft is planning to roll out is called "Together Mode”; a new view that makes it look like everyone is in the same shared space rather than the 49-person grid view. Microsoft is using AI segmentation technology to make this happen and is hoping that this functionality will help users feel like they’re all in the same room. In the beginning, this will take the form of an auditorium view, but Microsoft is planning to add additional options for more views soon.
Also on the new-release radar are video filters that will enable users to adjust lighting levels or soften camera focus before they join meetings. This is called “Focus Mode” and is supposed to help users focus on content without the distraction of video feeds.
The long-anticipated breakout rooms are another exciting release coming your way. Zoom users, in particular, may be the most excited about this. These breakout rooms will enable users to split participants into smaller groups.
All of these new features are available for the Teams desktop client on Mac or Windows but are not available in Teams on the web.
Some of the other features which Microsoft plans to add at some point but have not yet released a date for include message extension, the InVision Freehand Digital Whiteboard, and the ability for live events to open in their own window.
The new "Reflect" messaging extension will let meeting hosts check-in regularly with meeting participants or ask about a specific topic. The Reflect extension will be installable from GitHub and be available for your IT team to deploy inside the Teams Message Extension Menu.
Chat bubbles are coming soon too! Instead of requiring users to manually open chat windows to view chat screens, chats sent during Teams meetings will show up on the surface of the screens of all meeting participants. Suggested replies in chat are rolling out this month.
Teams is also getting live reactions, which will allow participants to react using emojis that will appear to all participants. Live reactions are a feature in PowerPoint Live Presentations --- which is also coming to Teams in the future. This feature is meant to help with audience engagement during presentations.
The new release list continues to grow with speaker attribution, translation for live captions, and transcripts. This is meant to clarify to meeting participants who is speaking, what's been said, and who said it. The new Tasks app (which is the new name for the Planner app in Teams) will provide a unified view of tasks from To Do, Planner, and Outlook.
Finally, Microsoft will be adding new Cortana capabilities to the Teams mobile apps for iOS and Android. Using this functionality, users will be able to make calls, join meetings, send chat messages, and more with just their voice. This feature will be coming to the Teams mobile apps "in the coming weeks" and will be available first for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the United States in English.
With its release of so many new features and functionality, Microsoft continues to dominate the world of video, chat, and collaboration tools. Whether in-person, remote, or a hybrid of both, many organizations are using Teams to revitalize the way that they communicate with their teams.