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Microsoft Teams gets Mesh avatars, Premium SKU, Places app, and improved channel experience

Mesh Avatars in a Microsoft Teams meeting

At its developer-oriented Ignite 2022 conference, Microsoft has announced a range of new features that will not only interest developers, but also consumers and enterprise customers.

For starters, Mesh avatars are now available in private preview for Teams. This is something Microsoft announced almost a year ago. Basically, Mesh enables users to utilize personalized 3D avatars that can join Teams meetings and interact with each other in an immersive space. It won't require users to turn on their cameras but interactive methods such as eye contact and live reactions will be offered for those who prefer a non-robotic interaction. Avatars can created through the Avatars app in the Teams App Store.

A Teams Premium SKU is also hitting preview in December 2022. New capabilities in tow include meeting guides, branding for meeting experiences, intelligent search, recap, and playback, AI-generated tasks, personalized insights, live translations for captions, advanced meeting protection, advanced webinars, and advanced virtual appointments. This will be available as an add-on preview in December. Pricing details are currently unavailable but general availability is scheduled for February 2023. The AI features have a broader "first half of 2023" release window though.

Microsoft has outlined enhancements to existing Teams features too. It has stated that Cameo for Teams is generally available, Excel Live in a Teams meeting window is coming later this month, and that organizers will have more control over the Together mode view for all participants along with the ability to assign seats.

Teams Phone Mobile is now generally available thanks to Microsoft partnering with several global telecom operators. It's currently available in a few countries and select telcos but Microsoft is working on expanding the capability. You can find out more details here.

Some other new and upcoming Teams features also include the following:

  • Video clips - Generally available now
  • Expanded reactions - General availability in November
  • Suggested replies in group chats - Generally available in October
  • Schedule send - Generally available now
  • Delete chat - Generally available in November
  • Mention @everyone for group chats - Coming at the end of this year
  • Zero-state people recommendations to suggest people to initiate chat conversations based on previous collaborations - Coming at the end of this year

Furthermore, Microsoft is improving the channel experience in Teams by moving the compose box to the top of the page, pop out conversations, pin posts, and enjoy a more streamlined info pane. Channels will also be made customizable with branded headers, and multiple post types for different occasions and milestones.

On the partners side, Microsoft Teams meetings will be available natively across certified Cisco meeting devices on a rolling basis. Microsoft is also continuing to work with independent software vendors (ISVs) such as 3M, SAP, iHeartRadio, Workplace by Meta, ServiceNow, Zoho, and more for collaborative Teams apps.

An infographic for Microsoft Places

But talking about first-party commitment to Teams apps, Microsoft has announced the Places app for Teams. The hybrid workforce management and collaboration app is coming soon in preview with the following functionalities:

  • A dashboard view of which days people on the team or collaboration network will be in the office.
  • A presence that will indicate people’s physical location (in office, remote or mobile).
  • The ability to see the workspaces other users have booked, so someone can book one nearby.
  • Insights and guidance on commuting and passing time, plus the ability to automatically schedule travel time.
  • Wayfinding and navigation help within the office location.
  • A modernized conference room booking and technology to allow everyone to be a first-class participant.
  • Insights and guidance on sentiment related to hybrid policies, so managers can implement best practices.
  • Insights and guidance on space usage, so leaders can future-proof spaces and add flexibility into their real estate portfolio.

Finally, for developers, the Teams Live Share SDK to build custom collaborative experiences is now in preview and the Teams Toolkit is now officially a part of Visual Studio, which should streamline the integration process for developers in this domain.

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