Live Captions Available in Teams Meetings

Live, Ad-Hoc Captioning Controlled by Teams Users

Office 365 Notification MC192383 posted on October 5 tells us that Microsoft is launching live captions for Teams meetings. The new feature is described in Microsoft 365 roadmap item 52817, which makes the important point that live captions only support English in the first release. Teams already supports captioning for Live Events, where producers of an event can choose six languages from over 50 for captioning. However, captioning on an ad-hoc basis poses different challenges to a structured planned event.

Enunciation and Good Headsets Critical for Captioning

Live captions exist to make meetings more accessible. In a face to face meeting, those who are hard of hearing might have some chance of following what people are saying, but this can be harder for video meetings if not everyone enables their camera or the video feed isn’t very good. To make live captions work, the audio feed is processed by voice recognition algorithms and the extracted text is displayed at the bottom of the screen.

I tried the new feature out in a call with Paul Robichaux (Figure 1) and discovered that it’s really important for speakers to enunciate clearly. Captions appear after a small but perceptible delay. Any slurring of words or mispronunciations or strong regional accents create challenges for voice recognition and end up with some interesting but inaccurate captions. It’s also true that good headset microphones are important to ensure that the best quality audio feed is available for processing. Further tips for achieving captioning accuracy are available in the documentation for live captions.

A Teams meeting with live captions
Figure 1: A Teams meeting with live captions

Live captions aren’t turned on automatically. Meeting participants must select Turn on live captions(preview) from the […] menu after joining a meeting.

Live Caption Setting in Teams Meeting Policy

Like many other Teams features, the ability for people to use the live captions feature is controlled by a policy assigned to their account. In this case, it’s the Teams meeting policy. Unfortunately the description about enabling or disabling live captions in the Office 365 notification is garbled. Here’s what happens.

The LiveCaptionsEnabledType setting in the Teams meeting policy controls if a user can enable live captions. If the settings is Disabled, the user can’t enable live captions. If it is DisabledUserOverride, live captions won’t be enabled at the start of a meeting but the user can enable the feature after they join. Notification MC192383 says that live captions is enabled by default for your tenant, but when I checked, I found that a number of meeting policies had the setting disabled:

You can update the meeting policies that have live captions disabled through the Teams Admin Center (Figure 3).

Updating a Teams Meeting policy to enable live captions
Figure 3: Updating a Teams Meeting policy to enable live captions

Profanity Filter

A recent LinkedIn post by Patrick Kelley, a Teams customer success black belt (quite a title) at Microsoft, discussed a profanity filter for live captions. Apparently, the filter has the ability to detect terms like “kiss my ass” and suppress the offending words (Figure 3).

A profanity filter for Teams live captions?
Figure 3: A profanity filter for Teams live captions?

Unfortunately, despite spirited attempts by Paul and myself to invoke the profanity filter, Teams declined to do so and the voice recognition algorithms made the best of our cussing. Perhaps it was our accents, or that we didn’t swear fluently enough. Or that the feature just hasn’t been released outside Microsoft. In any case, beside Teams live captions only supports English currently, you’ll still be able to shock people with a perfectly formed insult in French, Spanish, Italian, or any other non-English language you choose to use.


We have lots more coverage of Teams in the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook. You should read it!

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