Windows 11 steals a great Microsoft Teams feature for better video calls

Windows 11 is set to get one of Microsoft Team’s best features, thanks to “Voice Clarity”, which will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make your voice in calls and recordings much clearer.

Microsoft Teams, an app that many people use for video calls, has a very similar feature that does an excellent job at minimizing and eliminating background noises for people in noisy environments, ensuring they can be heard clearly.

With the feature being so acclaimed, it’s little surprise to see Microsoft bring it to the wider Windows 11 operating system, which would allow the feature to work with other video calling apps. Voice Clarity was announced at Microsoft’s recent ‘Hybrid Work’ event as one of the ways the company is making its products better for people who are now spending their time working from home, as well as in an office.

While the noise-canceling features in Microsoft Teams have proved popular, there’s not a huge amount of love for the application itself, so bringing it to Windows 11 itself could prove a popular move.


Analysis: There’s always a catch

Surface Laptop Studio

(Image credit: Future)

While the idea of making Voice Clarity available to more apps and users, the catch is that at the moment, the feature will only work on the Surface Laptop Studio, a relatively niche product from Microsoft.

That’s certainly a shame, as it means that the vast majority of Windows 11 users still won’t be able to make use of the feature.

It’s a bit of a puzzling decision, and we’ve contacted Microsoft to ask why this is the case. It may be due to some hardware-specific requirements that only the Surface Laptop Studio has. Or, Microsoft could just be limiting the availability of the feature to help boost interest in the Surface Laptop Studio.

But, with an increasing number of us relying on video calls for keeping in contact with friends, family and co-workers, any tools that can help make those calls better is certainly welcome, and we’d love to see Microsoft make the Voice Clarity feature more widely available.

Via Windows Latest

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Windows 11 steals a great Microsoft Teams feature for better video calls

Windows 11 is set to get one of Microsoft Team’s best features, thanks to “Voice Clarity”, which will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make your voice in calls and recordings much clearer.

Microsoft Teams, an app that many people use for video calls, has a very similar feature that does an excellent job at minimizing and eliminating background noises for people in noisy environments, ensuring they can be heard clearly.

With the feature being so acclaimed, it’s little surprise to see Microsoft bring it to the wider Windows 11 operating system, which would allow the feature to work with other video calling apps. Voice Clarity was announced at Microsoft’s recent ‘Hybrid Work’ event as one of the ways the company is making its products better for people who are now spending their time working from home, as well as in an office.

While the noise-canceling features in Microsoft Teams have proved popular, there’s not a huge amount of love for the application itself, so bringing it to Windows 11 itself could prove a popular move.


Analysis: There’s always a catch

Surface Laptop Studio

(Image credit: Future)

While the idea of making Voice Clarity available to more apps and users, the catch is that at the moment, the feature will only work on the Surface Laptop Studio, a relatively niche product from Microsoft.

That’s certainly a shame, as it means that the vast majority of Windows 11 users still won’t be able to make use of the feature.

It’s a bit of a puzzling decision, and we’ve contacted Microsoft to ask why this is the case. It may be due to some hardware-specific requirements that only the Surface Laptop Studio has. Or, Microsoft could just be limiting the availability of the feature to help boost interest in the Surface Laptop Studio.

But, with an increasing number of us relying on video calls for keeping in contact with friends, family and co-workers, any tools that can help make those calls better is certainly welcome, and we’d love to see Microsoft make the Voice Clarity feature more widely available.

Via Windows Latest

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Microsoft is making video calls creepier in Windows 11

Windows 11 is getting a new AI-powered eye contact feature for video calls, but rather than making these calls feel more natural, it actually looks pretty creepy.

Announced at its recent event on the future of hybrid work, this new feature aims to use artificial intelligence to make it look like your eyes are looking directly at the person you’re video calling.

Most webcams, including ones built into laptops, sit above the screen, but when we’re on video calls, we’re usually looking at the video of the person we’re talking to, instead of looking directly at the camera. This leads to callers appearing to look down when talking, rather than making eye contact, as most of us would when talking to people in person.

Microsoft’s attempt to fix this by adjusting the video caller’s pupils so they face the screen, in a bid to make video calls, as Windows chief Panos Panay claims, “more human,” is certainly interesting, but from the results we’ve seen so far, the effect appears more unnerving than the company intends.

GIF video showing the eye tracking feature

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Analysis: AI has its limits – and this is one of them

In the video clip Microsoft showed, a woman speaks on a video call, and her pupils do indeed make it appear that she’s looking at the screen. However, there are slight glitches that even when subtle, make it clear that something isn’t quite right.

It’s a classic example of the ‘uncanny valley’, where an attempt to synthesise an artificial human causes a sense of uneasiness in real humans, often because of imperfections which tell us that what we’re looking at is fake.

In fact, the uncanny valley can be more pronounced in more realistic attempts, as we subconsciously pick up more minor details, which then increases the impact of the effect, and that’s something that appears to have happened here.

By trying to make video calls in Windows 11 “more human,” Microsoft has actually done the opposite, and when you notice the little issues and glitches, you’re unable to see past the artificiality of it all. Ironically, it seems that this new feature is actually more distracting then if a caller was not looking at the camera.

Thankfully this feature will likely be optional, and there may be future updates that make it look more realistic, but at the moment we can’t imagine many people using it, and it shows that while AI has many fantastic uses, it also has its limits.

  • Check out our pick of the best laptops that you can use for remote video calls

Via TechCrunch

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Microsoft is making video calls creepier in Windows 11

Windows 11 is getting a new AI-powered eye contact feature for video calls, but rather than making these calls feel more natural, it actually looks pretty creepy.

Announced at its recent event on the future of hybrid work, this new feature aims to use artificial intelligence to make it look like your eyes are looking directly at the person you’re video calling.

Most webcams, including ones built into laptops, sit above the screen, but when we’re on video calls, we’re usually looking at the video of the person we’re talking to, instead of looking directly at the camera. This leads to callers appearing to look down when talking, rather than making eye contact, as most of us would when talking to people in person.

Microsoft’s attempt to fix this by adjusting the video caller’s pupils so they face the screen, in a bid to make video calls, as Windows chief Panos Panay claims, “more human,” is certainly interesting, but from the results we’ve seen so far, the effect appears more unnerving than the company intends.

GIF video showing the eye tracking feature

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Analysis: AI has its limits – and this is one of them

In the video clip Microsoft showed, a woman speaks on a video call, and her pupils do indeed make it appear that she’s looking at the screen. However, there are slight glitches that even when subtle, make it clear that something isn’t quite right.

It’s a classic example of the ‘uncanny valley’, where an attempt to synthesise an artificial human causes a sense of uneasiness in real humans, often because of imperfections which tell us that what we’re looking at is fake.

In fact, the uncanny valley can be more pronounced in more realistic attempts, as we subconsciously pick up more minor details, which then increases the impact of the effect, and that’s something that appears to have happened here.

By trying to make video calls in Windows 11 “more human,” Microsoft has actually done the opposite, and when you notice the little issues and glitches, you’re unable to see past the artificiality of it all. Ironically, it seems that this new feature is actually more distracting then if a caller was not looking at the camera.

Thankfully this feature will likely be optional, and there may be future updates that make it look more realistic, but at the moment we can’t imagine many people using it, and it shows that while AI has many fantastic uses, it also has its limits.

  • Check out our pick of the best laptops that you can use for remote video calls

Via TechCrunch

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The line is blurring between Microsoft Teams and actual phone calls

Your Microsoft Teams calls are set to see a significant boost thanks to a partnership between the company and some of the world's leading mobile operators.

The software giant has announced the launch of Operator Connect Mobile, a new service that will utilize the network footprint of existing operators to make sure Microsoft Teams Phone calls are more reliable and flexible than ever before.

Among other things, the new launch means that users can have a single business-provided number for mobile, desk, and Microsoft Teams, allowing them to work flexibly and securely from any location, device, or network.

Microsoft Teams Phone boost

Microsoft has signed up the likes of BT, Verizon, Swisscom, Telia and Rogers to support the launch later in 2022, providing what it calls “true fixed-mobile convergence”.

This should mean that mobile calls can be prioritized on the cellular voice network or internet connection for better call continuity and quality of service, with users also able to seamlessly move between devices and Teams endpoints without dropping calls.

An expansion on the company's hugely successful online collaboration platform, Microsoft Teams Phone combines VoIP and video conferencing services to allow users to make and receive phone calls within the software.

The platform styles itself as an all-in-one app that enables rich, reliable, and secure calling, offering services such as conferencing, do not disturb, reverse number lookup, voicemail, and delegation functionality.

The company claims that Microsoft Teams Phone has around 80 million active users across the globe, helping narrow the gap between home and office as more organizations embrace hybrid working.

It now hopes that Operator Connect Mobile will help grow this number, allowing organizations to combine their user's mobile identities with the existing Microsoft Teams and Office 365 cloud tools.

“Today’s announcement marks an important milestone for true fixed-mobile convergence,” Microsoft noted in a blog post announcing the news. ” Operator Connect mobile is a first-of-its-kind fixed-mobile convergence that’s intuitive, device agnostic, and enterprise compliant.”

“Operator Connect Mobile enables new opportunities for flexibility, efficiency, security, and compliance, which is particularly relevant in the new hybrid workplace. And as we continue to expand the functionality, the lines between voice calls and meetings, mobile and Wi-Fi networks, mobile and desktop devices, and office and field settings will continue to blur. This is the promise of organizational mobility, and it’s made possible with Operator Connect Mobile.”

Microsoft Teams continues to go from strength to strength, with the latest figures from the company showing that the service now boasts over 270 million monthly active users.

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Microsoft makes phone calls to Ukraine free on Skype

Despite the fact that most users have moved onto Microsoft Teams, the software giant has released a new preview version of Skype which is now available to download for Skype Insiders.

Skype Insider build 8.82 includes a number of bug fixes and stability improvements as well as support for Google Play Store in-app billing to purchase credit, subscriptions and Skype numbers.

In addition to these performance improvements, the latest version of Microsoft's video conferencing software and VoIP service will also allow users to make free phone calls to Ukraine on all platforms. This means that those with friends and relatives in Ukraine will be able to call them without having to purchase credits though Skype users in Ukraine will also be able to make free calls to users in other countries.

In a forum post, Microsoft explained that it has added a list of non-profit organizations to the Skype Home Page so that people around the world can donate to help support the Ukrainian people.

Translated Conversations and Support Ukraine emoticons

Microsoft didn't stop at free phone calls to/from Ukraine though as the company has also added support for more languages in Translated Conversations on all platforms. With this feature, Skye users will be able to translate their phone calls to and from the Ukrainian language so that they can more easily communicate with people in the country. 

At the same time, Microsoft has added “Support Ukraine” emoticons on all platforms and Skype users will now be able to use “Ukraine Heart”, “Ukraine Handshake” and “Ukraine Pray” in their chats.

In order to test out all of these new features and show your support for Ukraine, you'll need to be a Skype Insider first but you can become one by signing up here.

Throughout Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Microsoft has been working behind the scenes to support the Ukrainian government by fending off cyberattacks and the company recently suspended all new sales of both its products and services in Russia.

Via ONMSFT

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Microsoft makes phone calls to Ukraine free on Skype

Despite the fact that most users have moved onto Microsoft Teams, the software giant has released a new preview version of Skype which is now available to download for Skype Insiders.

Skype Insider build 8.82 includes a number of bug fixes and stability improvements as well as support for Google Play Store in-app billing to purchase credit, subscriptions and Skype numbers.

In addition to these performance improvements, the latest version of Microsoft's video conferencing software and VoIP service will also allow users to make free phone calls to Ukraine on all platforms. This means that those with friends and relatives in Ukraine will be able to call them without having to purchase credits though Skype users in Ukraine will also be able to make free calls to users in other countries.

In a forum post, Microsoft explained that it has added a list of non-profit organizations to the Skype Home Page so that people around the world can donate to help support the Ukrainian people.

Translated Conversations and Support Ukraine emoticons

Microsoft didn't stop at free phone calls to/from Ukraine though as the company has also added support for more languages in Translated Conversations on all platforms. With this feature, Skye users will be able to translate their phone calls to and from the Ukrainian language so that they can more easily communicate with people in the country. 

At the same time, Microsoft has added “Support Ukraine” emoticons on all platforms and Skype users will now be able to use “Ukraine Heart”, “Ukraine Handshake” and “Ukraine Pray” in their chats.

In order to test out all of these new features and show your support for Ukraine, you'll need to be a Skype Insider first but you can become one by signing up here.

Throughout Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Microsoft has been working behind the scenes to support the Ukrainian government by fending off cyberattacks and the company recently suspended all new sales of both its products and services in Russia.

Via ONMSFT

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Google Meet wants to try and fix patchy video calls for good

Identifying the issues behind a sketchy or badly-connecting Google Meet video call could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new update.

The video conferencing platform has introduced a new service that will let admins monitor call quality and single out any issues or bandwidth bottlenecks.

The new Meet quality tool will even allow admins to monitor connections over time, spotting if there are any specific times when bandwidth may be in high demand.

Google Meet bandwidth

In a blog post announcing the new tool, Google notes that the service will monitor both inbound and outbound bandwidth, covering both used and available.

“Surfacing this information helps admins visualize participants bandwidth compared to the quality of a call, making it easier for them to determine where a bandwidth bottleneck could be causing low quality,” the company noted.

Google added that knowing which bitrates are available or being used for specific endpoints can be crucial when performing troubleshooting or working to improve call quality in your domain. However such data was previously only available as an average across entire calls, which can make it difficult to narrow down problems during specific points in time. 

“We hope by surfacing this detailed information, Admins can easily troubleshoot or improve call quality for their users,” it said.

The tool is available by default to all Google Workspace customers now, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business customers.

The news is the latest in a series of updates as Google looks to ensure its video calling tool stays up to speed with competitors such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

Some of its most recent upgrades include allowing up to 500 participants to join a video call at the same time to make it easier to connect and collaborate with colleagues, clients and customers.

Users can also enable live streaming in Google Meet which will allow up to 100,000 viewers to watch at once.

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Your WhatsApp voice calls are getting a needed overhaul for iOS and Android

WhatsApp is testing a new look for being in a call, both on iOS and Android, which shows who's speaking in a group call with waveforms, alongside a more modern design.

The company has been working on improvements across the app for the last year, with multi-device support, a desktop app for Windows 11, and more to better rival other messaging apps.

But calling in WhatsApp has been relegated to the standard user interface of what iOS and Android offer to third-party apps with call features.

However, version 22.5.0.70, currently available to beta testers, the new look for calling in the app is going to benefit group calls more than those that are one-to-one.


Analysis: Making your voice calls look much better

WhatsApp audio wave form call

(Image credit: WABetaInfo)

For years, the interface when you're in a call on iOS and Android has barely seen any improvement since their first versions. While iOS 14 brought a compact view for when you would be in a call, the full-screen view has been relatively unchanged.

More users are preferring to choose to call over other apps, from WhatsApp to Skype, especially with group calls, which is why an update to the interface for WhatsApp is welcome.

Here, you've got an elegant design that shows who's speaking thanks to the audio waveforms for when someone speaks, alongside three options that's available to you at all times if you want to go on mute, end the call, or go on loudspeaker.

It's a modern design that only goes to show how much of an update the call screen in iOS and Android needs, especially for group calls.

Via WABetaInfo

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Microsoft Teams update introduces a useful new way to control your calls

Dealing with dodgy audio levels on a Microsoft Teams call could soon be a thing of the past following a new update to the platform.

The company has revealed that users of its video conferencing service will soon be able to control aspects of calls using a Bluetooth device.

The change means users will soon be able to use a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone to answer or end a Microsoft Teams call, giving users much more flexibility, such as answering a call on the move, or at their desk.

Microsoft Teams Bluetooth

The news will allow Microsoft Teams users to use the buttons on a connected Bluetooth device to control their call, largely by answering, ending, or putting the call on hold.

Thes devices won't even require a USB dongle when connected to a Windows PC running Teams desktop client, and Microsoft says that for many headsets and speakerphones, this will work without requiring any user action to enable other than pairing the device with the PC.

It's likely that only certain devices will be able to use the feature to begin with, and Microsoft notes that users should stay tuned to its certification page for additional information about devices tested to meet all certification criteria with native Bluetooth connections soon.

The official Microsoft 365 roadmap notes that the feature is currently still in development, but is set to start rolling out to users in March 2022. When live, the feature will be available to all Microsoft Teams desktop users only, with no news of a mobile launch just yet.

The update could be good news for companies looking to upgrade their online collaboration hardware, and follows the recent launch of a new initiative designed to attract even more customers to Teams.

Microsoft recently announced a new device trade-in scheme whereby businesses can claim cash back on old video conferencing hardware and desk phones when they make the switch to Microsoft Teams. The scheme will be facilitated by a partnership with Network-Value, a company that specializes in global device trade-in and responsible equipment disposal.

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