At this point, we're all pretty used to the basic layout shared by virtually every video conference and video chat service. You either get a single prominent presenter or a grid that shows you everyone (up to a certain number) on the call. Changing your background to something a little more exciting than your living room or office aside, it's all basically the same.
Well Microsoft has done some research into how users handle this over the last few months and is introducing a number of new features to Teams in order to help make the experience much less taxing for participants (via TechCrunch.)
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The first of these new features is Together mode, which at launch places everyone that is participating in the call together in an auditorium with support for up to 49 people. This makes use of the same AI technology that Microsoft was already using in Teams to create background blur or to replace your individual background but is now placing you all in a shared space.
According to EEG testing that Microsoft conducted last month, participants are expending considerably less mental effort in this Together mode versus the standard grid view.
While they don't have a brainwave chart to support this next claim, their "research has also shown that people tend to be happier, be more engaged in meetings, feel more comfortable keeping their camera on longer — even if they’re not asked to in this mode."
Microsoft attributes this at least partially to eliminating the constant problem of wanting to maintain eye contact, while also looking at the other participants on the call, this view essentially eliminates that concern.
Now while the auditorium view is the only option available at launch, Microsoft has plans to roll out other options in the future for smaller groups and other meeting types, for example, a coffee shop.
Dynamic view and more coming
When Together mode isn't the right fit for your meeting, Microsoft is also introducing Dynamic view which gives you a greater degree of control over what you are seeing on screen. This will include options like a side-by-side split view between content from a presenter and selected participants among other options.
And this isn't it, there are other new features to help you get your image just right with a variety of video filters and additional controls for your lighting. New chat options are coming soon as well that will allow you to respond with emojis, chat bubbles to avoid the problem of keeping track of your chat view, and live captions and transcripts.
Microsoft will also be expanding options for bringing entire companies or massive groups together with Teams in the future, with support for up to 1,000 participants or up to 20,000 in a presentation mode.
As we've said previously, Microsoft looks at Teams as far more than simply a video conferencing or chat service, particularly with its Teams for consumers play, but regardless of those grander goals to be your work and home communications hub Teams has clearly become one of the top options in the booming video communications market.