Microsoft has been working to develop a meeting format that supports a modern environment that contains a mix of in-office and remote participants. In order to support this, they have been developing new features to the Teams meeting format. One of these features is a “speaker coach” that notifies users who interrupt others.
The new features in Microsoft’s Office and LinkedIn reflect what the company sees as a permanent shift in work patterns, from being predominantly office-based to a mix of office and remote working. The new features in Office will allow workers to create and manage virtual teams more easily across boundaries of location, language, culture and time zones. Here are the key features:
A new feature to be included in meeting rooms is an “intelligent camera” – the AI-powered system that supports features such as speaker tracking, zooming in on the active speaker, multiple video streams that enable participants to be in their own video pane even when in a physically shared meeting space, and facial recognition — that will identify the name and profile of enrolled users.
Microsoft said it is working with Jabra, Poly (formerly Plantronics), Neat, and Yealink on camera hardware. In the coming months, lighting correction in Teams will help appearances in low-light conditions.
The program, Cameo, is a PowerPoint add-in that will add a Teams camera feed to presentations. It includes the ability to choose the size and position of the feed, and theme support means that users can provide links to the channel of their choice. The camera feed works anywhere in Windows where PowerPoint can show a video feed.
This was designed for a live presentation, though we presume it could also be used to record a video as that feature has been built into PowerPoint. Cameo will “start to roll out in early 2022”.
Speaker Coach in Microsoft Teams uses AI. It discreetly alerts the speaker if they are speaking too fast or slow, or if someone is interrupting them. Microsoft’s promotional video for Speaker Coach showed the pop-up “it looks like someone is also trying to speak”, similar to Clippy, the previous Office assistant that would pop up and say, “it looks like you’re writing a letter”.
A new feature for Outlook Calendar will let users specify in-person or remote in an RSVP for a meeting, and to specify whether remote or in the office in a work schedule.
Teams’ new Companion mode provides users present in the meeting room the ability to participate in a hybrid meeting. Through the companion mode, participants can chat, add “live reactions” that pop up on the screen, show PowerPoint presentations, turn on and off room cameras, and more.
It is said that Teams will be coming to Apple CarPlay this month, enabling hands-free calls using Siri and joining meetings with Teams.
Google also announced enhanced hybrid meeting support in an uncanny coincidence. As part of its announcement, Spaces, the company’s collaboration workspace, also described forthcoming features including improved navigation and search, in-line topic threading, as well as new tools for content moderation. Meeting invitations can now be accepted via virtual or physical presence in Google Calendar. Google Meet calling, which facilitates unstructured meetings, will be integrated with more places.
The intention is to bring Meet calling to all the natural endpoints within Workspace so you can initiate a quick call. But first, it will be available within one-to-one chats in Gmail on mobile devices.
The company has also recently announced the “companion mode”, which will be released next month. It enables users to toggle between presenting or joining meetings, share content, access chat and whiteboards, initiate and vote on polls – all without physically being there. Google has also announced some new hardware that is specially designed for Google Meet, which will allow this project to operate more effectively. They have also mentioned the possibility of bringing interoperability with devices made by Cisco.
It’s obvious that both Google and Microsoft are embracing the hybrid meeting concept since it also extends their reach to new fronts. Namely, online video conferencing for your business meetings.