Microsoft Teams – What’s new?

Published: 22nd April 2020

As we all adapt to our new ‘office’ environments at home, Teams are introducing a few new features to make working remotely that little bit easier.

‘Raise hands’ when you have something to say

Coming soon: The new “raise hands” feature in Teams allows meeting attendees to identify that they wish to speak, making it easier to actively participate in large meetings. Teams allows you to hold meetings with up to 250 participants, so this new feature will come in handy for those meetings that can sometimes become a bit chaotic.

How does it work?
Everyone will see a visual cue on the attendee’s video feed, as well as in the participant list, and can be sure to give them the room to participate in the conversation at hand.

Reduce background noise with noise suppression

Coming soon: Background noise is sometimes unavoidable, especially in our new working environments and it can be very distracting during your Teams meetings. Real-time noise suppression, a new feature in Teams will automatically remove unwelcome background noise during your meetings. No more angry call outs to your colleagues asking them to mute themselves.

How does it work?
Noise suppression works by analysing an individual’s audio feed and uses specially trained deep neural networks to filter out noise and retain only the speech signal. Microsoft’s AI-based approach learns the difference between speech and noise and is able to suppress all forms of noise including non-stationary sources that we commonly encounter in our meetings such as typing, eating chips, and road noise, just to name a few.

Access Teams without an Internet connection

Live: Now you can open and access Teams when you are without Internet access, or on a remote work site with terrible network conditions. You will be able to create and read messages, browse previously viewed channels, and to view calendar summaries. Pinned chats, pinned channels, and recently visited chats and channels will always be available offline.

Teams is also now optimised to work in a low- or poor-performing network scenarios. For example, users will now be able to send messages even with sub-optimal connectivity. If conditions are too poor to send a message, Teams will notify users of this and then save the message until the user has returned to a functioning network. This functionality is coming to Teams in the next few weeks.

New chat backgrounds

Live: You may have had to create an office in your toddler’s bedroom temporarily or maybe you have a busy house and family members walking back and forth during your Teams meeting. Whether the above resonates with you or not the new background feature is still a handy addition. It’s worth noting that the blur background feature is now available on your iOS devices as well!

How does it work?
During your call, simply select the three- dot icon and select ‘Change Background’, you’ll then be able to add a background from the images Microsoft has provided. We believe Microsoft is looking to introduce an option for custom backgrounds, meaning we will be able to have smartly branded backgrounds.

Increasing participant video from 4-9

Coming Soon: Microsoft have listened to the community and is increasing the number of Video participants in Teams Meetings. Whilst Teams currently defaults to show 4 participants (2×2) with additional participants at the bottom of the screen, Microsoft are increasing this to 9 participants (3×3). This will make those department meetings much more engaging. With Microsoft aiming at an early May release of this feature this can’t come soon enough.

Better sound less bandwidth

Live: With us all having to battle for bandwidth at home between our children and our home offices, we often find that our call quality suffers. This struggle can leave us with having to ask the dreaded ‘sorry can you repeat that’. To combat this Microsoft have now enabled its new audio codec in Teams, providing an uptick in sound quality delivering a Wideband audio experience often touted as HD Audio. Isn’t this just going to exacerbate the problem though? Amazingly they have managed to make this scale all the way down to a minuscule 7kbps compared to your Netflix stream of the Tiger King coming in at a whopping 5,000kbps.

Create a community through the new Yammer App

Live: With lockdown stifling our normal social interaction in the office space, Microsoft has brought Yammer to teams through its new Communities application. For those that haven’t already embraced Yammer in your business. This new app helps provide a companywide communication platform ‘social network’ for sharing announcements and connecting with colleagues to drive employee engagement. Great for knowledge-sharing especially in the current situation where we could all do with a little help from each other.