MULTINATIONAL technology company Microsoft Corp. has added new features to its unified communication and collaboration platform, Microsoft Teams, to further address the needs of an increasing number of people working and learning from home amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a recent virtual press briefing, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365 Jared Spataro said the app’s new noise suppression feature, which uses artificial intelligence (AI), removes all of the distracting background sounds as participants engage in an online discussion.

“We’ve all been in an online meeting where someone’s typing loudly or there’s a vacuum running in the background at somebody’s house. A new live noise suppression feature removes distracting background noise to help you hear what’s being said,” Mr. Spataro said.

Microsoft Teams is a three-year-old app for teamwork where participants can chat, edit files together, and store their output into the cloud.

Microsoft also added a new “raise hand” function, which allows participants to send a visual cue when they have something to say.

Mr. Spataro said Microsoft will be working with knowledge transfer company RealWear, Inc. to address industry-specific needs.

“The first is a new integration for Teams on RealWear headsets. RealWear makes wearables for workers in hardhat environments. These workers often need to communicate and collaborate effectively in industrial settings that can be loud and that require both hands for the job,” he said.

Microsoft has also upgraded Team’s chat feature. Mr. Spataro said the ability to pop out chats into a separate window will help participants streamline their workflow and more easily move between ongoing conversations.

“Offline and low bandwidth support lets you read chat messages and write responses, even without an Internet connection, making it easier for teams to collaborate in and outside of the office,” he added.

Teams now also has a booking app to ensure that appointments such as patient consultations, client meetings, and job interviews can be easily scheduled, managed and conducted.

The technology solutions company likewise offers Microsoft 365 Business Voice for small and midsized enterprises in the United States, making Teams a complete phone system.

Also at the briefing, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Narayana Nadella highlighted the important role of technology in supporting workers, entrepreneurs, and students during the community quarantine period.

“We also, of course, recognize the role of technology and how it can play a supporting role for those working tirelessly to reduce the impact of COVID-19, you know, from healthcare providers staying connected with telehealth solutions, schools and universities teaching via virtual classrooms and remote learning, to businesses of all sizes who are enabling their employees to work remotely, without sacrificing their ability to collaborate or be productive and staying secure,” he said. — Arjay L. Balinbin