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Microsoft Teams is getting fake coffee shops, breakout rooms, and custom layouts

Microsoft Teams is getting fake coffee shops, breakout rooms, and custom layouts

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Lots of new features for pandemic-era meetings

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Microsoft is expanding its new Together Mode for Microsoft Teams soon, allowing co-workers to pretend they’re holding meetings in coffee shops, break out into smaller meeting rooms, or use custom layouts to overlay presenters directly onto slide decks.

Together Mode, created for pandemic-era virtual meetings, has been part of Teams for a few months now, but Microsoft is adding a few more features that better emulate the way many of us used to work. New scenes include a number of auditoriums, conference rooms, and even a coffee shop. This mode is also getting updated with a new feature that uses machine learning to automatically scale and center people in their virtual seats no matter how far they’re sitting from a webcam.

The NBA has been using Microsoft Teams’ Together Mode for its virtual crowd feature, allowing fans to dial in and sit together side by side to cheer teams on. The NBA has combined Teams with 17-foot-tall LED screens that wrap around basketball arenas to put fans back, virtually, next to players. It’s been a successful experiment and one of the more unique ways to have fans viewing from home.

New custom layouts for meetings.
New custom layouts for meetings.

Microsoft is also improving Teams with custom layouts soon. This should revamp how presenters add content to meetings, allowing a video feed of the presenter to be laid on top of a slide deck so participants don’t have to pick between watching the presenter or looking at the deck separately. Microsoft is using its technology from Together Mode and background blur to enable this.

Microsoft is also adding options for breakout rooms later this year. It will allow participants to split off into smaller groups, which presenters can hop in and out of. It sounds ideal for education, where a teacher might ask students to break off into groups for activities and then check in on their progress.

New breakout rooms for smaller meetings.
New breakout rooms for smaller meetings.

Microsoft also opened its doors to third-party apps during meetings earlier this year, and more than 20 apps are now arriving next month to take advantage of this extensibility. Support for up to 1,000 meetings participants is also being enabled, with an additional view-only mode that supports up to 20,000 people.

Most of these Microsoft Teams features are simply marked as coming soon or available later this year, so expect to see them arrive in the coming months.

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