This story was originally published at 8am PT on Nov. 15 and updated at 3:10pm PT.
During Microsoft’s Ignite 2023 event, the company’s annual IT pro conference, a slew of interesting updates were revealed for Teams, its Slack-like collaboration and messaging service.
Among the dozens of updates here, some of the highlights are the initial rollout of voice isolation, an AI-driven noise reduction feature that can not just reduce repetitive noise in the background but also other people’s voices, and a new “decorate your background” feature that can look at the room you are working from and then enhance it by cleaning up clutter or adding plants to the wall.
“Decorate your background” will surely steal the headlines. Users, it seems, will be able to choose different types of enhancements to their work environments, but the real promise here is that you’ll never have to clean your home office again (until somebody invites you to a Google Meet or Slack call, of course).
The voice isolation feature is rolling out now and will be generally available in early 2024, while “decorate your background” will be available early next year in Teams Premium.
Meanwhile, Microsoft also announced that immersive spaces in Teams, a remnant of the metaverse hype of 2021, will be generally available in January, allowing users to create avatars to attend these meetings within various 3D environments and play interactive games, roast virtual marshmallows and throw beanbags (yes, those are things Microsoft specifically mentions in its announcement).
Microsoft Mesh, its tool for creating these immersive spaces, will also be generally available in January.
You’ll hopefully never have to use any of this.
Some of the more useful new features, though, are customizable emoji reactions, the ability to forward chats, create a group chat profile picture and add a private second phone number for a select set of callers. There are also new keyboard shortcuts (Alt+Shift+D to set your status to Do Not Disturb, for example) and some new tools for IT to manage teams more effectively.
Earlier this year, Microsoft launched a re-architected Teams app for Windows and Mac. Now, the web experience on Edge and Chrome will gain some of these advantages, too, with Microsoft promising to double the performance while using 50% less memory.
For more Microsoft Ignite 2023 coverage: