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August developments 

In its recent updates, Microsoft Teams has unveiled a range of fresh and exciting features that have greatly enriched the platform’s capabilities. These updates have been designed to empower users with enhanced collaboration tools and more efficient communication within their teams.

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The animated backgrounds feature is a recent addition to Teams Meetings. It allows users to replace their current background with a dynamic animation, creating a more immersive and engaging virtual environment. This feature offers a variety of options to enhance the meeting experience, letting users infuse creativity and personalise their surroundings. However, it is important to note that only Microsoft-provided wallpapers are currently supported for this feature. To enable this feature, you need to access the pre-join screen before the meeting begins. On this screen, select the ‘Effects and avatars’ option.

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(Source: Microsoft Teams)

Microsoft has introduced spatial audio for Teams to enhance communication and reduce meeting fatigue. Spatial audio replicates in-person conversations by separating participants’ voices, creating a more natural listening experience. This feature aligns audio and video representations, making it easier to track speakers, understand multiple speakers, and reduce cognitive load.

Teams have updated the hover menu for chat messages to make it easier for users to reply to or edit messages. This update improves user interactions and overall experience on the platform. The hover menu now includes icons for replying to received messages, adding emojis, and reactions. In addition, Teams chat also offers a compact mode option, which includes features like time stamps, extra line breaks, and indicators to show who sent the messages.

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(Source: Microsoft Teams)

From now it is possible to easily control the zoom level when viewing content shared on screen in Teams meetings. Instead of relying on touchscreen shortcuts, you will now see zoom-in and out buttons on the screen. These buttons will appear in the lower-left corner of the screen where the presenter’s name is displayed.

With the new update, it is possible to easily book a room on Teams panels by scanning a QR code with a mobile device. This simplifies booking a room for a current or future meeting or a scheduled meeting with fewer steps. You only need to scan the QR code on the meeting board, and you can either schedule a new meeting with an already selected room or view the availability of your meeting room and book it with just one click. The Whiteboard interface has received a visual update, making essential content creation tools like notes, reactions, comments, text, and shapes more visible. The toolbar has also been moved to the bottom of the screen, enhancing usability and providing more space for smaller devices. In Teams Meetings (Public Preview), organisers and managers can now use the ‘Shuffle’ feature to randomly assign participants to rooms before or during the meeting. This can be applied to all participants, specifically those who are unassigned.

Google Meet has introduced a new AI-powered custom backgrounds feature that allows users to create personalised background images for their meetings. To use this feature, users must open Google Meet, select a meeting, and click ‘Apply visual effects’. For instance, if you want an illustration of a mountain, you can request Google Meet to create one for you. This is currently being tested in Google Workspace Labs and is only available on desktop.

In focus

Zoom has introduced an AI assistant called Zoom AI Companion, which is available to its customers as an additional feature at an added cost. The company has launched a digital assistant powered by generative AI to be included in subscriptions of paid Zoom users at no extra charge. The benefits of Zoom AI Companion include assisting users in drafting emails and chat messages. It can also summarise meetings and chat threads, making it easy for users to catch up on the information they missed. AI integration into Zoom Whiteboard is also upcoming. In Whiteboard, users will soon be able to get assistance in developing and categorising ideas. In the future, AI Companion can complete Whiteboard templates and generate images. Additionally, Zoom Mail will receive AI assistance, and users will get email draft suggestions starting this autumn. Furthermore, Zoom Notes and Zoom Phone will also benefit from the help of AI Companion by the time spring arrives.

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(Source: Zoom)

Are you planning an online meeting or event and need urgent advice?

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Our ConfTech Help desk provides countries and organisations with immediate advice on how to organise and run online meetings and events. Get in touch with us at conftech@diplomacy.edu.

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