Tech behemoth Microsoft has now rolled out an innovative audio feature – Spatial Audio to its Teams desktop application, aimed at creating a more natural and engaging conversation environment during group video calls. This move is part of Microsoft’s ongoing effort to enhance its Teams app experience and alleviate meeting fatigue, which can often arise from the challenges of virtual interactions. Microsoft Teams’ audio being powered by spatial sound enhancement, resembles Apple’s FaceTime introduction to spatial audio.

As organizations continue to rely on remote communication and collaboration tools, features like Spatial Audio represent significant steps forward in optimizing the virtual meeting experience. 

Microsoft Teams Spatial Audio Update: Audio Improvement

Spatial Audio employs advanced audio technology to simulate a dynamic real-world scenario for users engaged in Teams video calls. By projecting sound from different participants to correspond with their positions on the user’s screen, spatial audio enables a more immersive and realistic audio experience. Microsoft Teams’ sound upgrade to the spatial context, will help users easily identify and distinguish speakers, even when multiple participants are speaking simultaneously.

The Audio Manager at Microsoft Teams Audio Manager, Hong Sodoma, emphasized the importance of binaural hearing in creating realistic audio experiences and how the spatial audio update on Teams will craft an immersive experience for meetings. 

Microsoft Teams spatial audio

Microsoft is trying to innovate new features to keep virtual meetings interesting. (Image Courtesy – Microsoft Teams)

However, conventional audio and video communication applications typically use monophonic audio, where speech signals from different participants are combined into a single channel, often leading to a loss of spatial context.

“Teams Spatial Audio aligns the perceived audio location of each participant with their video representation to make it easier for users to track who is speaking, to understand better when multiple speakers are speaking at the same time, and to lower meeting fatigue and cognitive load.”

To benefit from Microsoft Teams spatial audio update, users require a stereo-capable device, and the tech giant recommends the use of headphones to fully appreciate the enhanced audio experience. 

But, it’s worth noting that current Bluetooth headsets are not yet compatible with Microsoft Teams’ spatial audio feature due to existing protocol limitations. Spatial audio is currently available exclusively on desktop versions of Teams, and certain large-scale calls with more than 100 participants will be incompatible to Teams’ spatial audio feature, owing to constraints related to the Satellite Server protocol used by the platform for bandwidth management.

Microsoft’s futuristic plans include adding Bluetooth support as next-generation LE Audio devices become more prevalent in the market.

LE Audio, a developing audio technology, needs compatibility from both the source device and the audio accessory. Some earbuds from manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, OnePlus, and EarFun have already incorporated this compatibility. Moreover, Windows 11 gained support for Bluetooth LE in May, hinting at the possibility of broader compatibility.

While third-party accessories are expected to embrace this technology, Microsoft’s own Bluetooth products may not receive the LE Audio upgrade. For instance, Surface Earbuds might not see a successor due to sales performance. Even the Surface Headphones 2, despite being well-received, have not seen a follow-up. This highlights the competitive advantage of ecosystems, with Apple having established spatial audio capabilities across its platforms.

To activate the spatial audio update on Microsoft Teams, users can navigate to the Settings menu → Access the Devices section.

The initiative of a spatial sound enhancement to improve Teams audio demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to refining the conversational platform and catering to users’ evolving needs in the realm of remote collaboration. 

By incorporating cutting-edge audio technology, Microsoft aims to create a more dynamic and engaging virtual meeting environment, ultimately contributing to improved communication and reduced meeting fatigue. While the implementation may have certain limitations in its current form, such as compatibility with specific devices and call sizes, Microsoft’s proactive approach to innovation is expected to drive further enhancements and improvements in the future.