Microsoft Teams gets custom layouts, new Together ‘scenes’

Microsoft will enable Teams users to overlay a presenter’s video feed when displaying content such as slides – part of its aim to improve meetings as the number of video calls rockets during the pandemic.  

The feature, due out later this year, is among a handful of updates to the Teams collaboration platform unveiled at Microsoft’s Ignite conference Tuesday. The company also highlighted enhancements to office-based meeting tools and new capabilities to promote employee wellbeing.

The custom layouts feature lets users place a video feed of a meeting presenter onto the foreground of a PowerPoint presentation,  thanks to the same artificial intelligence  segmentation technology used in Teams background blur and Together mode. This will enable meeting participants to view the presenter’s hand and face gestures, as well as allow for weather forecaster-style highlighting of content.  

“It’s almost like setting up the room, in a physical sense, for how I will present and what I have to show you, and that really gets past this idea that everything has to be the same with just a Brady Bunch view and a whole bunch of squares,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, during a pre-recorded briefing.

There are also changes to the Together mode, first announced in July, including new  “scenes” later this year that will mimic conference rooms and coffee shops. The ability to automatically scale and center participants in their virtual “seats” will be added; that’s designed to help make the virtual experience more real when individuals are sitting too far from their cameras, Microsoft said.

Other video features include the addition of breakout rooms – a highly requested feature also due to arrive by the end of 2020. 

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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