At the Ignite conference this week, Microsoft announced updates to Teams, its constantly evolving video conferencing and workplace collaboration app. New avatars are available, and more details have been announced around Teams Premium, a set of paid Teams features with AI-generated tasks and meeting guides, which will arrive in preview in December.
The groups premium is an effort to simplify group pricing, which previously varied at different levels. Microsoft says He waits. It costs $10 per user per month, with a premium for groups generally available at an official price. This is higher than the lowest Google Workspace plan, which costs $6 per user per month, but less expensive than Zoom Pro ($15 per user per month).
The aforementioned avatars – part of Microsoft’s Mesh platform – allow users to choose customized and animated versions of themselves to appear in team meetings as zoomed virtual avatars. With the Avatars app in the Microsoft Teams app store, users can design up to three avatars using gestures to respond to topics in a team meeting.
Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s CVP of modern work, describes avatars as “taking a break from the camera” but “still being physically present” in team meetings. “Our data shows that 51% of Gen Z will work in the Metaverse in the next two years,” he wrote in a blog post – an optimistic percentage if we are talking about VR and AR headsets, but it depends on how. One describes it as a “metaverse.” He continued: “You can create custom avatars to represent yourself.
Avatars is perhaps also a small game – albeit understated – reviving a platform that stalled last year. According to Microsoft, “more than 270 million” people actively use Teams each month, a number that hasn’t changed since January when employees went back to the office.
While the prototypes are available to private preview customers in regular teams, organizations interested in trying them out can sign up for updates on the teams website if they’re not already part of the teams technical access program, Microsoft said.
With Teams Premium, you’re getting meeting guides designed to help customers choose the right “meeting experience” — such as a customer call, brainstorming session or help desk support — options that can be customized and managed by the IT team. Teams Premium users can personalize the meeting experience with corporate-level logos for lobbies and brand-specific backgrounds.
Premium-based add-ons from the most exciting new teams use AI. For example, there’s Intelligent Recap, which attempts to capture key points from team meetings, and an Intelligent Playback feature that automatically generates chapters for team meeting recordings. Personalized insights highlight key moments in a recording, such as when someone’s name is mentioned, while Intelligent Search aims to simplify transcriptions with suggested speakers.
Apart from all this, Teams Premium offers instant translations for 40 spoken languages and the aforementioned AI-generated functions.
AI aside, Team Premium will soon offer a suite of features that Microsoft calls advanced meeting protection, secret meetings like board meetings, and unannounced product launches. These implement automatic protections for meetings such as watermarking, recording restrictions and sensitivity tags. Relatedly, new advanced webinars in Team Premium offer a registration waitlist and manual approval, automatic reminder emails, a virtual green room for hosts and presenters, and the ability to manage what attendees see.
Teams Premium introduces advanced virtual appointments, designed to help deliver an end-to-end appointment experience for direct-to-consumer brands with pre-appointment text reminders, a branded lobby and post-appointment follow-up. Organizations get a simplified view of all virtual appointments and pre-appointment chat capabilities both scheduled and on-demand to communicate with their customers.
On the back end, customers can see things like usage trends, history of virtual appointments and no-shows and wait times with specific staff and departments.
Microsoft says the premium features for Teams will start rolling out as part of a preview in December 2022, with general availability coming in February 2023. AI capabilities, including Intelligent Playback and Intelligent Recap, will hit in the first half of 2023.