Microsoft Teams unleashes new hybrid work features

collaboration, logitech, microsoft, neat, poly, teams, the era of collaborative apps, chief executive Satya Nadella highlighted

A “front row” layout for Teams Rooms users and updates to Microsoft’s collaborative Whiteboard tool are among the slew of announcements Microsoft made Thursday to improve the tech giant’s hybrid work experience products and services.

Americans may be thinking about the end of the pandemic and possible return to the workplace, but by some measures, collaborative tools to allow for remote working continues to grow as a major market.

“As much of the world shifts to a hybrid work model, it’s clear that we’re living through a pivotal moment that amounts to a once-in-a-generation shift in the way we work,” Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, said in a pre-recorded video released with the product announcements.

Microsoft Teams has so much potential for application developers that Rajesh Jha, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Office Product Group, deemed this “the era of collaborative apps” back in May.

At Microsoft’s most recent quarterly earnings report in April, chief executive Satya Nadella highlighted Teams as an important resource for company growth.

Although the quarterly report didn’t break out specific sales numbers for Microsoft Teams, Nadella said Teams has more than 145 million daily active users, double that of a year ago. The number of organizations with more than 1,000 users nearly tripled year over year.

Here’s a breakdown of the news for each product and service.

More Collaboration Tools In Teams

Users of Teams chats have gained the ability to pin messages in a chat for other users to find later, according to Microsoft. Users can co-create agendas, take notes and assign tasks within a Teams meeting while the agendas, notes and tasks automatically gather under a new meeting notes tab of OneNote.

Microsoft has expanded its “fluid components” feature for live collaboration to include Teams meetings, OneNote, Outlook and Whiteboard.

And Microsoft has introduced PowerPoint Live and Dynamic view to the Teams mobile app. Custom backgrounds are now available on iOS and will come soon to Android.

‘Front Row’ Layout In Teams Rooms

Microsoft has unveiled a new layout for Teams meetings with users of Teams Rooms in mind. The “front row” layout moves the video gallery to the bottom of the screen and surrounds meeting content with information like agendas, tasks and notes.

The meeting chat also gains better visibility for participants in a physical Teams Room or working remotely. The chat feature will soon gain support across single and dual display configurations.

This winter, Microsoft will bring more features from the Teams desktop app to Teams Rooms, including live reactions and a video spotlight feature. This spring, users will gain the ability to pin multiple video streams

When it comes to Teams-focused hardware, Microsoft partners Jabra, Logitech, Poly and now Neat offer AI-powered camera technology to improve the Teams meeting experience, according to Microsoft.

Later this year, Teams experiences will become available across Neat’s device portfolio. The Neat Symmetry feature uses AI and high-resolution sensors to focus in and auto frame each participant in a room.

The new RightSight2 feature available later this year will give Logitech Rally Bar and Rally Bar Mini users two views on Teams meeting screens, one for the active speaker and one for participants. The camera will also shift to each speaker as they talk. And Logitech will soon sell Teams-certified true wireless earbuds for mobile devices or desktop, according to Microsoft.

The Poly Studio E70 intelligent camera tracks active speakers and uses AI and machine learning for automatic framing and zoom for speakers.

Upgrades To Whiteboard

Users of Microsoft’s collaborative visual workspace Whiteboard gained new tools, new integrations, an improved drawing experience and a new user interface, according to the tech giant.

Users can get collaborators’ attention with a “laser pointer” feature. Collaboration cursors coming soon will show where others are on the whiteboard. And users have new templates for planning and workshop sessions. Whiteboard is also now available in Teams channels and chats.

Whiteboard gains new abilities to insert existing images and documents. Users can add a “notes grid” for organising thoughts and ideas. Users can post “reaction stickers” for feedback. A top bar window shows who is ‘in’ the whiteboard and the mouse inking feature has been improved so that the app will straighten hand-drawn shapes.

In the spring, Microsoft Whiteboard on Surface Hub will allow collaborators to draw on and edit the same digital canvas.

This winter, new Whiteboard features will allow users to bring existing content to edit. New templates are also coming.

Viva Integrates With Headspace

The Viva Insights app will add guided meditations and mindfulness exercises from Headspace later this month.

Later this year, a new focus mode in Viva will feature music from Headspace and timers to set regular breaks after accomplishing tasks. Users will also gain the ability to schedule quiet periods to silence mobile notifications from the mobile Outlook and Teams apps outside of working hours.

IT administrators will gain new controls to create organisation-wide policies to mute notification after work hours.

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