This Monday, Microsoft introduced Avatar for Teams, an immersive service for joining meetings as a virtual human. The avatar system is currently under a public preview period, meaning that Teams users must jump through several simple hoops to leverage the early-stage enterprise-grade avatar solution.
While Microsoft has not yet distributed the avatar framework across Teams as a full-blown public feature, users can get a taste of Avatars for Teams with a few simple steps.
Microsoft is still working on its enterprise avatar system to optimize the service ready for a public roll-out. So, Teams users may experience some technical problems as Microsoft irons out specific issues based on its public preview user feedback.
Users can access the avatar suite via an integrated application. Although users should note that the service is only accessible via the public preview avenue, a testing space before Microsoft fully integrates the feature.
Microsoft initially ran its Avatar for Teams system as a private model, updating the service with critical optimizations for its public launch.
How to Use Avatars for Teams
In order to leverage Microsoft’s immersive service today, users must follow various steps and specifically set up their Teams application so it’s ready for public preview participation.
Public preview on Microsoft Teams allows users to access new features early and provides users with a space to send feedback based on their experience with new updates.
Public preview-ready users can send feedback directly to Teams developers via the ‘give feedback’ feature in the application’s settings menu.
Becoming Public Preview Ready
To become a Team public preview, early access member, users do not need to undergo an extensive application period.
The Teams public preview space is easily accessible via admin tools and requests. So, here are the steps:
- Open the Microsoft Teams application (and make sure the service is up to date!)
- To the left of the user’s profile picture, Teams has a ‘Settings’ tab. Users must select this option.
- Within the Settings menu, the user then needs to choose ‘About’ and then ‘Public Preview.’
- Following step four, Teams will present users with a ‘switch to public preview’ pop-up box for approval.
- Done! After this, a Teams user can start accessing the Avatar system and Microsoft’s list of public preview early access features.
Although, if a user is accessing Teams via a work or school account, an administrator must allow access to the Teams public preview option.
Additionally, when a Teams user becomes public preview ready, the application will display an “EA” symbol next to their profile picture. So that co-workers know that they are using early access features.
Adding Avatars to Teams
Now that a Teams user is public preview-ready, they can start getting hands-on with the service’s Avatar features.
Users must note that Microsoft only makes the early access avatar system available for Windows and Mac users. Moreover, Microsoft supports avatar on the Teams mobile application as ‘View-Only’; web users cannot yet access the immersive feature.
First, users must download the ‘Avatars for Teams’ as an integrated application via the service native application storefront. To do so, users must click on the ‘Apps’ icon on the Teams landing page and search for ‘Avatars’.
Once downloaded, users can access the ‘Avatars for Teams’ app by selecting the integrated first and third-party services menu.
Upon opening ‘Avatars for Teams,’ users can immediately edit and personalize their workplace avatars. Users can choose the ‘+’ symbol on the application’s right-hand side to create a new enterprise avatar.
Then, users can start customizing a new avatar. Moreover, users can duplicate a pre-existing avatar to customize it to suit different digital communication expectations. Furthermore, to edit a pre-existing avatar without duplication, users can click on the desired digital persona and choose the ‘customize’ option.
Moving on, when a user creates a new Teams avatar, they can start from a selection of base personas. Microsoft encourages users to choose the base avatar that best represents them and start personalizing it.
Users can access customization features like body, face, hair, appearance, and clothing options to alter an avatar to fit their desired digital representation.
Users can use sliders in the face customization tab to alter specific features, including face shape, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. Moreover, further personalization options exist for avatar body alterations.
Additionally, Microsoft provides users with a range of clothing options for a casual or professional-looking avatar.
Integrating Avatars into a Teams Call
So, now that a Teams user is public preview ready and has an avatar to boot, they can start joining calls via their immersive creation.
To join a Microsoft Teams meeting as an avatar, users must first turn off their cameras and replace the video feed with their personal avatars through the ‘Effects and Avatars’ option.
Now a user is avatar ready, they can join a Teams call via their digital representation. Moreover, users can choose from various custom backgrounds and camera angles to keep the digital feed fresh.
In-call avatar users can stay active during a Teams meeting. Avatars for Microsoft Teams provide animated features based on the platform’s pre-existing in-call emojis.
User avatars can react during a call such as putting their hand up, laughing, clapping, and smiling. Users can access a wide array of “complex” reactions via the effects and avatars menu present mid-call.
Moreover, Avatar for Microsoft Teams adopters can fully translate their current disposition via an avatar mood slider.
Fighting Video Call Fatigue with Immersive Features
Microsoft can achieve its goal of offering employees who use webcams an immersive dial-in alternative thanks to the Avatar features.
As a result, Microsoft gives Teams users more options for enterprise-grade communication while still giving a lot of flexibility.
The move comes as Microsoft fights to prevent remote working challenges such as video call fatigue by providing immersive options which keep workers engaged without forcing them to appear on camera.
Moreover, the fight against fatigue gives workers even more flexibility as they no longer require a video feed to participate actively in meetings. A worker unable to share a video feed due to an unsuitable working environment or poor internet connection can continue to participate in ways unachievable with simple audio-only dial-on options.