Microsoft has provided an update on a number of upcoming features for its suite of productivity and collaboration software, designed to help support the demands of hybrid working.
In conjunction with its latest Work Trend Index report, Microsoft has clarified the release windows for new facilities spanning Microsoft Teams, Outlook and other services, on which TechRadar Pro has previously reported.
However, the company also announced a handful of brand new features, including new meeting room hardware, tools to assist with virtual presentations and an addition to the newest Microsoft 365 service, Loop.
Microsoft 365 for hybrid working
Since the start of the pandemic, Microsoft has worked doggedly to turn collaboration and video conferencing platform Teams into a central hub for working, by rolling out a variety of feature updates and new integrations designed to create synergies between its apps.
Now, with many businesses shifting towards a new working model as offices reopen, the company is making a series of tweaks that better align its software with the hybrid working era.
In December, we reported that Microsoft was developing a new feature for Outlook that would allow users to specify whether they will be attending a meeting in-person or online, called Outlook RSVP. Microsoft has now confirmed the feature will become available at some point in Q2, 2022.
Separately, TechRadar Pro reported on a new video call layout coming to Microsoft Teams, which is supposed to enable more equitable hybrid working meetings by bringing remote participants eye-to-eye with those in the office. The feature is now available in preview, with “enhancements” to arrive later in the year.
What's new, Microsoft?
Microsoft also had a few surprises in store, however, the most notable of which is perhaps a pair of updates designed to improve the online presentation experience.
In the coming months, Microsoft will integrate recording studio and cameo, two PowerPoint features that allow users to record and add a video feed to their presentations, respectively. And second, the company unveiled a feature called Language Interpretation for Microsoft Teams, which lets human interpreters dial into a presentation to provide live translation for international attendees.
The company also took the opportunity to announce a new AI-powered business webcam for the Surface Hub 2, which offers intelligent framing and image optimization, and two touch-enabled displays from Neat and Yealink. Microsoft says the third-party devices are undergoing certification for Microsoft Teams Room and should be available to purchase in Q2.
Finally, Microsoft revealed plans to integrate portable Loop components into Outlook, which will supposedly help employees “brainstorm and complete action items” without having to switch apps. The functionality is already available with Teams, and members of the Office early access program can now sample Loop components in the Outlook email client too.
“Whether it’s creating more engaging meeting experiences, enabling collaboration with external partners, or giving you the flexibility to work where, when and how you want, these new features address the new expectations people have for the workplace,” wrote Nicole Kerskowitz, VP Microsoft Teams.
“While so much has changed about work, one thing remains constant: people are at the center. With technologies like Microsoft Teams supporting people, we can make hybrid work really work by bringing everyone - and everything - together.”
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