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Teams Animated Backgrounds Deliver a More Immerse Virtual Environment
Announced in message center notification MC578280 (9 June 2023, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 122513), Teams meeting participants can choose from a set of animated backgrounds alongside the usual set of static backgrounds (Microsoft-provided and custom). According to Microsoft, a dynamic animation delivers “a more immersive virtual environment.”
Animated backgrounds are available for the Teams Windows and Mac clients. Browser clients will have to enhance user “meeting experience with creativity and personalization” through other methods.
The background animation update is due to roll out to targeted release tenants in mid-June 2023 with public preview starting at the same time. Standard release tenants will see the code in early July with full worldwide deployment due by late July. GCC High and DoD tenants must wait until late September. Like all Teams updates, there’s no way to predict when an individual update will arrive in a specific tenant. That’s one of the joys of working with a service spanning 300 million monthly active users.
Limited Set of Teams Animated Backgrounds
Zoom is the most obvious competitor for Teams and animated backgrounds are a popular feature of that platform with many backgrounds available. For now, Teams supports a limited set of Microsoft-provided animated backgrounds, which are identified by a small video icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the thumbnail in the background gallery (Figure 1). I rather like the twinkling lights of the snowy mountain nightscape background, even if I can’t quite see any evidence of being in a more immerse virtual environment promised by Microsoft. Maybe that’s just me on a bad day…
Meeting participants apply animated backgrounds like any other background in the meeting pre-join screen or when a meeting is in progress. That is, if the meeting policy applied to their account allows the use of background images.
If things proceed like they did after the initial introduction of backgrounds for Teams meetings, two things will happen. First, Microsoft makes additional backgrounds available. Second, Microsoft allows customers to create their own custom backgrounds. I can’t say when this will happen, but given that Zoom supports custom animated backgrounds, the likelihood is that Microsoft will enable these changes fairly quickly.
Hardware Requirements for Teams Animated Backgrounds
Interestingly, Microsoft says that animated background are unavailable on “low-end devices.” Workstations need at least 8 GB RAM and a CPU with four logical processors to handle the insertion of the animated background into the outbound video feed, which seems a tad excessive. Microsoft also warns that using other video filters (like the Snapchat filters) might slow animated backgrounds if the workstation is under heavy load.
Filters for Everyone
Over the last year or so, Teams has added a range of filters to expand the possibilities available to Teams meeting participants. I consider some, like the brightness and soft-focus filters and the green-screen filter, more important than the Snapchat filters or custom video effects. You can also throw meta avatars into the video effects mix, but only if you have Teams Premium licenses.
To each their own and what I think “I’ll never use” is the most important feature for someone else. I suspect that I’ll find animated backgrounds more interesting and valuable when I create my own. Until then, we’ll just have to put up with the set of default animated backgrounds delivered by Microsoft.
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