Microsoft's Front Row feature for Teams Rooms is meant to blur the lines between virtual and in-person meetings participants.
Last summer, Microsoft announced plans to make hybrid meetings better via new Teams enhancements. On February 1, officials said they were starting to roll out one of the key updates, known as "Front Row" -- a feature in Teams Rooms that's meant to make meeting interactions between virtual and in-the-room meeting participants more natural.
With Front Row, Microsoft moves the video gallery to the bottom of the screen, so remote participants are actually face-to-face with people in the room. Microsoft also has made it possible for everyone in a Teams Room, whether virtual or in-person, to see and react to chat comments during a meeting.
The Teams product team came up with the idea for Front Row by working with its Microsoft Global Workplace Services IT team, according to a February 1 LinkedIn post about the feature. The Front Row feature doesn't require any special peripherals like wide screens or curved desks, though it can work with both.
Microsoft is working on additional related features for Front Row. There will be a segmented video-layout view, which will put all remote participants into a single shared background, similar to the way Together Mode works, to make it feel as if everyone is in the same room. (Microsoft also announced and showed off this feature last June.)
The coming Loop app will allow Teams Rooms participants to replace the raised-hand panel with live note-taking and live action items. And Microsoft is also working to add positional audio, so audio will come out of the speaker closest to where a real or virtual participant is situated.
Front Row is now available for all Teams Rooms on Windows, with single and dual display modes. The enhanced features described above will roll out later this year.
In other Teams-related news, Microsoft launched last week a new device trade-in program for Teams in conjunction with Network-Value, a device trade-in specialist. Via this program, companies can get cash back by selling their video-conferencing hardware, desktop phones, and other unified communications devices as part of their move to Teams.