Microsoft Teams: This update could make big meetings a bit more bearable | ZDNet

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Microsoft has announced plans to improve its Together Mode feature for Teams group video meetings to allow developers to create and upload custom scenes for the feature. 

First spotted by OnMSFT, Microsoft flagged the new custom background scenes for Together Mode on its Microsoft 365 Roadmap

Microsoft released Together Mode for Teams video meetings last year to help make video meetings feel a little more personal. It uses AI segmentation technology to put people on a video meeting in the same virtual room, such as an auditorium. 

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SEE: Top 100+ tips for telecommuters and managers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

It was one of Microsoft’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and remote working, serving as a version of custom backgrounds in one-to-one video calls but for large groups. It places a bunch of heads and torsos in the same room and is meant to reduce the mental strain on people who constantly need to enter group video meetings.  

While custom backgrounds for Teams lets individual users swap out backgrounds, Microsoft’s new capability to create custom scenes for Together Mode is targeted at developers. 

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“Build your own scenes that elevate your meeting experience. We believe that by making Together Mode extensible, creators can create immersive scenes and users can go beyond simple video conferencing. Started (sic) building your scenes by going to the Developer Portal for Microsoft Teams,” Microsoft says. 

Over the past few months Microsoft has added more scenes to the original auditorium view, but it hasn’t allowed developers to create their own scenes. 

Microsoft appears to have struck upon a winning feature in Together Mode with Zoom last month releasing its take on the concept and making it available to free accounts.  

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Microsoft this week matched Zoom’s shared backgrounds for free accounts by enabling Together Mode for personal accounts rather than just work accounts tied to enterprise Office 365 subscriptions. Microsoft offers Together Mode scenes for Teams on desktop and the web for free; consumer accounts became available on May 17.

But these features – free and paid-for – come as people grow weary of video meetings and bosses begin to reject the idea of work from home as a permanent fixture of work life. 

SEE: Video meeting overload is real. Here’s how you can to stop the stress building up

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The CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, recently said he would cancel all his Zoom meetings, as CNBC reported.   

“We want people back to work, and my view is that some time in September, October it will look just like it did before,” Dimon said at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council earlier this month. 

“And everyone is going to be happy with it, and yes, the commute, you know people don’t like commuting, but so what.”

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Image: Microsoft

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