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Microsoft Teams update helps cut through the chaos of group calls

Rachel England
Contributing Writer
Microsoft

This week marks the third anniversary of Microsoft Teams, and at a time when remote working is more prevalent than ever before, Microsoft has announced a bunch of new features designed to make it easier for teams to communicate and collaborate -- both during the coronavirus outbreak and into the future.

First up, real-time noise suppression. If you've ever been in a remote meeting where someone is typing loudly on their keyboard or has the radio playing nearby, you'll know how distracting these background sounds can be. This feature minimizes these unwanted noises, allowing users to hear what's being said.

Then there's the Raise Hand feature. In remote meetings with a lot of participants -- or particularly chatty individuals -- it can be hard to make your voice heard. Tapping the Raise Hand icon sends a visual signal to everyone in the meeting that you've got something to say.

Other new features include pop-out chats, to help you jump more easily between conversations, and a booking app, which will make it easier to schedule and conduct virtual appointments. There's also support for offline and low-bandwidth use, so you'll be able to read chat messages and compose replies even if you're offline.

Finally, there are some device-orientated developments. A new integration between Teams and RealWear head-mounted devices means that industrial workers will be able to use Teams to access information and communicate hands-free with remote colleagues from their job site. New devices certified for teams are also on the cards. The Yealink VC210 is available now, while Bose nose cancelling headphones 700 UC will be on sale in late spring.

These new features are available now, and given the current global health crisis they could not have come at a better time -- something Microsoft is well aware of having made Teams available for free to the UK's NHS workers during the coronavirus outbreak. In just a week, the company has seen Teams grow from 32 million to 44 million daily users around the world -- with more set to join the platform as more countries confirm their own isolation strategies.

Slack has also made some fortuitously-timed changes to its collaboration platform. Remote working has taken on an unprecedented focus in recent times, and providers are well-positioned to help people and companies around the world work together despite global uncertainty.