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Microsoft rolls out echo cancellation and other AI features for Teams

Microsoft rolls out echo cancellation and other AI features for Teams
Photo Credit: Pixabay
14 Jun, 2022
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Microsoft has announced the availability of some new artificial intelligence (AI)-based features for Teams, its proprietary business communication platform, with a focus on improving call quality. While Teams already had a slew of AI features for video and voice enhancements, it will now support features like echo cancellation and “de-reverberation” that will help in adjusting poor room acoustics.

Echo cancellation aims to remove the ‘echo’ that is heard when talking on the speaker of the device. Using AI, Teams can detect the difference between your voice and the sound from the speaker, and eliminate the echo without distorting your voice. Likewise, de-reverberation addresses specific scenarios where the acoustics of your room can cause your voice to sound shallow, especially when you’re far away from the microphone.

Another significant feature is ‘interruptibility’, which helps in situations where you’re not using a headset, so the sound on the call is coming through your speakers.

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In all the above scenarios, Teams can now "use a machine learning (ML) model to take the captured audio and make it clearer, as if you’re speaking into a close-range microphone,” the company said, adding that "the new features can enhance in-call audio quality, and an elimination of echo that also allows multiple people to speak at the same time".

In a blog post, Nicole Herskowitz, Vice President, Microsoft Teams said, “Disruptive echo effects, poor room acoustics, and choppy video are some common issues that hinder the effectiveness of online calls and meetings. Through AI and machine learning, which have become fundamental to our strategy for continual improvement, we’ve identified and are now delivering innovative enhancements in Microsoft Teams that improve such audio and video challenges in ways that are both user-friendly and scalable across environments."

In recent months, Microsoft has rolled out a number of other capabilities for Teams. For example, Teams already supports background noise suppression during calls so others don’t have to be distracted by what’s happening around. 

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Microsoft Teams also has AI-based optimisations for video calls, such as content-specific optimisation that makes video sharper depending on the content its showing. For example, a whiteboard may need to be sharper to improve legibility, while a video feed of a person needs to be smoother. More recently, Microsoft has rolled out lighting adjustments in Teams powered by AI, which allowed users to use various filters to subtly adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of the camera to customise their appearance before joining a meeting.