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Working from home? The person on the other end of your call shouldn’t have to know

Wherever you go, there you work.
Reuters/Robert Galbraith
The couch is the new conference room.
By Simone Stolzoff
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

When you work from home, you don’t have to wear pants. You do, however, have to act like a professional.

At its Ignite conference in Orlando, Microsoft announced a host of new tools today (Sep. 24) to help workers get stuff done when they’re not in the office. Given that more than 50% of the US workforce will do at least some work from home by 2020, remote work seems to be a strong horse for Microsoft to hitch its cart to.

The most relatable release of the day—at least for anyone who has had to take a video conference from the couch, or from a bedroom infiltrated by curious children—is a new feature that allows you to blur the background of a video chat.


“Background blur” will be incorporated into Teams, Microsoft’s hub for workplace communications, and a competitor to the popular messaging app Slack.

“With Teams, we’re using AI to help people before, during, and after a meeting,” Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365, tells Quartz At Work. “Teams delivers a new, more inclusive way of working that keeps people engaged with their teams, whether they’re in the same building or in different cities.”

Other video-conferencing software companies like Zoom have similar “virtual backgrounds” to standardize the environment of video calls, but given Microsoft’s recent investments in artificial intelligence that can accurately recognize a person’s face as it moves, its new tool should prove to be more flexible. (Zoom’s virtual background works more like a green screen, and works best in a room with a solid background and uniform lighting.)

Microsoft also added a feature to Teams that will allow users play back recorded meeting content at any time, with captions and a searchable, time-coded transcript.

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