It’s February already, and in typical Microsoft fashion, the company let us know all the new features that were rolled out to Teams users during the month of January. As usual, the list of changes and news is huge, so there’s plenty to go through, but it’s not as long as some other months. Highlights include a new music mode, a new front-row layout for Windows devices, and more.
Starting with Meetings, as we mentioned, there’s Music Mode, which enables high-fidelity audio streaming over a Teams meeting. As the name suggests, this mode’s goal is to stream high-quality audio while listening to music, so you can reliably stream a song or tune into someone on Teams. It can also be useful for capturing certain sounds during a medical appointment, for example.
Continuing on the audio theme, Microsoft has also added a new tap to unmute sound shortcut on Windows and macOS. Pressing and holding Ctrl + Space (Windows) or Option + Space (macOS) lets you wake up only when you hold down the keys so you can make a quick comment or note. Your microphone is muted when you release the keys. This feature is enabled by default.
As for video, Teams has added the ability to unmirror your video stream, so you can see your own video properly. Usually, while the video is showing properly for other users, you are seeing your own mirrored video stream, but this feature allows you to turn it off. Meanwhile, Teams on the web has finally added support for custom backgrounds during meetings.
For production teams and broadcasters, Microsoft has also added the ability to record isolated audio streams for Teams meeting participants using NDI or hardware output. Additionally, it is possible to broadcast an individual video stream using hardware output with select AJA and Blackmagic Design devices. When one of these devices is connected to your PC, you can click the ellipsis icon on a user’s video stream and choose “Send Video to Hardware” so it can be sent to the external device for production.
As for devices, Microsoft finally rolled out the front-row layout for Teams Rooms devices on Windows in January, following its first announcement last year. This layout brings meeting participants to the bottom of the screen to keep them at eye level for participants in a physical meeting room, while meeting content, such as presentations and meeting chat, is displayed above. The goal is to make hybrid meetings more natural.
There are, however, many other improvements for Teams Rooms devices on Windows. You can now switch between cameras connected to a Teams Rooms device, there’s a new call app experience that lets you start a meeting or dial a phone number, and you can also start a meeting immediately – l equivalent of the Meet Now feature on desktop computers. Cortana integration has also been improved, with Cortana skills now supported in more languages, including Australia, Canada, Britain, India, and the United States. Cortana voice activation is also now enabled by default on new Teams Rooms devices.
As for Teams devices, Teams is now supported by the Meta Portal (formerly known as Facebook portal), there is a new Lenovo wired headset and speakerphone and the Poly Studio E70 camera for Teams devices Rooms. This camera has two 20MP sensors with 4K video, one with a wide angle and the other with a narrower field of view, and supports auto-framing and speaker tracking. This month, Microsoft also announced a walkie-talkie feature for Teams on Zebra’s Android devices in January.
The Teams Phone experience also gets a few improvements. Transcription is now available for 1:1 calls so you can have a written record of a call. VoIP and PSTN call recordings and transcripts are also now available in your call history.
Microsoft also announced that the new Reflexis Shifts connector for Teams is now generally available. This allows users to assign and manage change requests in an organization, and it’s yet another third-party experience for Teams to support.
Finally, changes have been made to the management side of Teams. Admins can now set automatic expiration of meeting recordings after 60 days, improvements to the app details page in the Teams admin entry, new Teams device admin roles extended so admins can grant permissions to users based on location and admin notifications for custom app submissions. It is also now possible to manage Surface Hub devices from the Teams admin center.