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Friday, August 14, 2020

Advancing Remote Work

Microsoft continues advances for remote, multiple person conferencing

Microsoft's plan to make video calls less miserable

Ina Fried, author of Login
screenshot from a Mircrosoft ad that has people sitting in seats in a lecture hall

As the pandemic continues to reshape office work, Microsoft is adding new features to Teams that aim to make video calls more human and less exhausting, including a new "together mode" that puts all participants in a single virtual environment.

Why it matters: Millions are stuck with video conferencing as a key work tool for the next many months (and possibly longer). That creates a huge incentive for tech companies to create a better experience in a market currently dominated by Zoom. .... 

Teams' Together Mode displays the images of the user and all the other participants in a video conference against the same backdrop, ranging from a coffee bar for a couple people to an auditorium for larger gatherings of up to 49 people.

Since users are in a fixed place relative to others (rather than in one of many boxes moving around in a gallery), they can point at each other and make eye contact.
The effect is like sitting in a barber chair, seeing yourself and others in the mirror and having a conversation with them.

Under the hood, the technology draws on understandings from virtual reality applied to a traditional 2D video chat. Indeed, one of the key collaborators on Together mode is Jaron Lanier, a researcher known as the father of VR. ... "

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