Microsoft Teams Gets More Personal Enticing You To Dump Zoom For Virtual Family Gatherings

Microsoft Teams
This has been a rough year, no doubt about that. The pandemic has taken its toll in many ways, including physically distancing us from family members and friends for far too long. In an effort to make things a tad easier, Microsoft is making several personal features in Teams generally available today, on desktop, mobile, and the web.

The idea is to "help everyone rediscover the joy of togetherness" in a more user friendly and fun way. Bearing in mind that apps like Teams and Zoom were primarily designed for business collaboration, the addition of certain features intended to personalize the experience on a more consumer level is certainly welcome.

"From online calls that will make you feel like you’re in the same place as your loved ones to group chats that will make coordinating plans with your loved ones a breeze, these personal features in Teams are designed to bring you closer to the people you care about so that you can call, chat, plan, and organize things big and small—together in one place," Microsoft explains in a blog post.

One of the additions to Teams is Together mode. This lets you turn any regular call into a shared virtual environment. There are several different options, such as a family lounge, coffee shop, or a summer resort, with the goal of making calls more engaging and fun while situated hundreds or even thousands of miles apart.

More than just window dressing, Microsoft says this sort of thing can reduce video call fatigue, which I found interesting. This is based on early research using biosensors that measure brain activity. The underlying concept is that your brain does not have to work as hard in shared virtual environments, compared to staring at a grid of people.

Microsoft Teams Emojis

Microsoft also added the ability to use live emoji reactions and GIFs to "spice up calls" with family and friends. And if you miss a group call, you can come back later to catch up and read the thread, and still add a GIF to keep the conversation going "because chats in Teams don't go away even when your call is done."

Perhaps best of all, Microsoft is still offering free group chats up to 300 people for up to 24 hours, as it had done in the preview version, in light of the pandemic. At some point, this will return to a 60-minute limit for group chats (more than two people and up to 100 instead of 300), but for now, the restrictions remain lifted.

The personal version of Teams is distinct from the work version, so you can keep your personal and professional worlds separate from one another. That means all files, contacts, chats, and other information for each account are kept separate. However, you can switch between the two easily enough, by clicking on your profile in Teams.

This is good effort on Microsoft's part. Whether it will lure users away from Zoom remains to be seen. If you want to give the personal features in Teams a whirl, just download the app to your desktop or mobile device, or log in on the web. And if you really want to take your video calls to the next left, check out our video conference home studio optimization guide.