Custom Backgrounds and Live Captions in Microsoft Teams

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Microsoft’s latest move in the battle between video conferencing and collaborative working online platforms is to add custom background effects and enable live captions.

New Features

Following on from its original announcement in April about the introduction of pre-selected backgrounds or a blur effect (introduced last year)  in video calls on the platform, Microsoft Teams has now announced the roll-out of new custom background effects in Teams, along with new features in the free version of Teams. 

Backgrounds

The new background feature enables users to customise their background by uploading their own images or choosing one of the collections of backgrounds available online. The stated idea behind the change is that it offers an easy and fast way for users to get creative and to express themselves in meetings.  Commercially, it looks likely to be another way to help Teams to compete against the likes of Zoom, which has grown its user base exponentially during the lockdown.

Collection

The types of backgrounds that Microsoft says its Teams users now have access to include The Simpsons living room, a mountain of LEGO building blocks, a collection from Fox (the Masked Singer, Family Guy, Duncansville and more), an Xbox theme, a blue or green Microsoft Solitaire background and event-specific collections such as 20 virtual backgrounds for users to show their support for the LGBTQI+ community.

New Features For The Free Version of Teams

With Zoom announcing end-to-end-encryption for its free version, Microsoft now has its own new, competitive features for the free version of Teams. These include being able to schedule meetings and send out invitations in advance, and to turn on live captions during calls and meetings to make them more inclusive.

Other features that users of the free version of Teams (up to 500,000 users) get include unlimited chat and search, audio and video calling, 10 GB of team file storage and 2 GB of personal file storage per person, the ability to use the Office web apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) and unlimited app integration.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is another move by Microsoft in the battle to gain and retain users of its collaborative working platform and to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ in terms of maximising the surge in demand created by the pandemic and directed by Microsoft’s advertising campaigns.  Announcing the roll-out of these new features and the enhancements to the free version of Teams will help Microsoft to compete against challengers Zoom and Slack, and will add value for users and give them more reasons to stay loyal to Teams.

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