This cringeworthy Microsoft Teams feature could soon be forced upon you

Microsoft is preparing an update for collaborative platform Teams that will allow admins to change how meetings are displayed to all attendees.

As explained in a new entry Following the company’s product roadmap, meeting hosts will soon have the option to enable Together mode for all participants. The update is still in development, but should go live by the end of May.

Launched in summer 2020, Together Mode for Microsoft Teams brings all participants together in a shared space virtual backgroundin order to “give the impression of sitting in the same room as everyone else”.

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Together mode in Microsoft Teams. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams

While the ambition behind Together Mode is lofty, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. In this writer’s opinion, the virtual background filled with floating heads only serves to focus on the fact that a meeting is not, in fact, in person.

While Microsoft’s AI system does a pretty decent job removing the background from each person’s home desktop, and some people will do better than others, the end result is a welcome one.

The idea that meeting hosts should be able to dictate that everyone uses the feature is particularly strange. While there’s something to be said for operating on a level playing field, some users are bound to find the feature more useful (or useless) than others, making a blanket policy counterproductive.

However, not all of Microsoft’s attempts to introduce variety into the way Teams meetings are displayed have been so divisive.

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Last year, the company rolled out a series of new presentation modes designed to help Teams users adjust their presentation style on occasion. Standout mode, for example, places the presenter’s video feed in front of the slide deck, while Reporter mode places content over the shoulder in the style of a news broadcast.

The features were an example of how virtual backgrounds and intelligent positioning of content can rightfully improve the quality of videoconferencesfulfilling Microsoft’s stated ambition to “help presenters deliver content more professionally and provide meeting attendees with dynamic experiences.”

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