Microsoft's plan to improve meeting rooms includes larger displays and spatial audio

·Contributing Writer
·2 min read

As some companies begin to transition their employees to hybrid work models, Microsoft has shared a new video detailing how it sees its Teams software fitting into those arrangements. The clip shows off an updated Rooms interface that will position remote participants near the bottom of the display to make it look like they have a seat at the table. Above them, two windows dedicated to the meeting chat and any action items that need attention flank the current presentation.

Microsoft envisions new hardware complimenting those software enhancements. The screen that displays the Teams interface will be larger to make your colleagues appear more life-sized. Additionally, cameras placed at eye level will help make meetings feel more natural. Spatial audio, meanwhile, is there to make it so that the sound of a voice comes from the specific person talking on-screen.

"Creating equitable, inclusive experiences starts with designing for people not in the room," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a LinkedIn post outlining the company's broader thoughts on hybrid work. "We want to ensure those joining remotely are always first-class participants."

For most companies, recreating Microsoft's vision will involve investing in new hardware. In one of the demo rooms the company shows off, you can see its 85-inch Surface Hub 2S acting as the focal point of the meeting. That's a "collaborative display" Microsoft sells for $22,000. The upgrades don't stop at pricy screens either. The best possible Teams experience involves high-quality microphones installed into the ceiling of a room and an intelligent camera to track in-person participants.

Microsoft isn't the only company thinking about the role technology can play in hybrid workspaces. At the start of the week, Google showed off Project Starline at its I/O developer conference. It's a combination of specialized hardware and computer vision software that creates a "magic window" effect to make it feel like the person you're communicating with remotely is in the same room as you. 

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