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Emerging AI-Driven Productivity Tools: Boosting Focus and Engagement

From Wall Street to the back office, artificial intelligence (AI) is among the hottest conversation topics of 2023. Among IT leaders and business stakeholders alike, there’s tremendous buzz about this emerging technology’s potential to streamline operations, improve productivity, and help employees work more efficiently.

Many of these discussions have centered around new generative AI tools like ChatGPT, which can summarize text, answer questions, write everything from code to essays, translate between multiple languages, and even create audio files and images. But these tools aren’t the only new use cases for AI.

In fact, leading technology companies (including Microsoft) continue to introduce innovative machine learning (ML) and AI-powered enhancements into their current product lineups. These enhancements are intended to increase user engagement and productivity, while making it easier than ever to gain more value from your existing technology investments.

Here are some of the most powerful and versatile of these new capabilities.

Enhanced feature sets in Microsoft Teams

Ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, videoconferencing and collaboration platforms have been playing an increasingly large role in employees’ day-to-day workflows. Even as organizations invite workers back into physical offices, they’re eager to implement tools that make hybrid and remote work easier and empower people to be more productive.

Microsoft is helping its customers meet this need by releasing new capabilities and features, including several AI-powered enhancements to Microsoft Teams that have been introduced within the past few months. With background noise suppression, for instance, employees who are working from home don’t need to worry that barking dogs, crying babies, or hammering contractors will intrude upon their online meetings. Those that are working from the neighborhood cafe or coffee shop can easily screen out sounds from other people’s conversations. And just about everyone can eliminate the clicking sound their keyboards make when they’re typing.

The new noise suppression feature leverages specially trained deep neural networks to analyze a user’s audio feed and filter out background noises. Traditional noise suppression algorithms could only identify simple sounds that were stationary and consistent—like a fan—but this one can tell the difference between an individual’s speech and various noises—ranging from a vacuum cleaner to children playing nearby—and suppress the unnecessary ones.

Individual users can control these capabilities, so you can easily override out-of-the-box settings to increase or decrease the extent to which background noises are suppressed.

Meanwhile, AI-driven enhancements to audio and video quality are allowing Microsoft Teams to adapt its performance to changing network conditions, so that meeting participants can see and hear one another clearly, no matter what happens to the traffic that’s connecting them.

Another new feature that’s AI-powered is avatars. Now available in public preview, avatars allow Microsoft Teams meeting participants to take a break from being on camera while still expressing their individuality by showing their appearance and expressing emotions non-verbally. A user can adjust their avatar’s hairstyle and facial hair, change its clothing, and fully customize the background. If you raise your hand in the app, the avatar will automatically raise its hand.

Designed to help hybrid teams better collaborate by improving meeting participation, collaboration, and effectiveness, avatars can help people overcome video fatigue while still remaining engaged with their colleagues.

Introducing Microsoft 365 Copilot

Microsoft recently hosted their annual Microsoft Build event, where developers (as well as Microsoft partners and interested users) were invited to learn more about the latest tools, data and cloud platforms, collaborative apps, and DevSecOps and low-code toolkits that Microsoft is making available to the development community. 

Among the many innovations that were highlighted during Microsoft Build, Microsoft 365 Copilot stands out. Microsoft 365 Copilot integrates the large language model (LLM) capabilities of ChatGPT into the Microsoft 365 toolset. This means that Microsoft Word will be able to generate first drafts automatically, Microsoft Excel will be able to analyze trends and create data visualizations more quickly, and Microsoft PowerPoint will be able to automatically create presentations from a prompt, using documents that users already have on hand.

Microsoft 365 Copilot will be able to summarize content, surface key discussion points and insights, and automate repetitive tasks (such as reviewing documents for compliance). It’s purpose-built to help professionals in a wide variety of roles be more productive, focus on more interesting and satisfying work, and spend less time searching for information or examples.

Leveling up hybrid meetings: Microsoft Mesh

Also still in public preview, Microsoft Mesh promises to make hybrid meetings more interactive, more immersive, and more fun. Features like avatars and spatial audio enable videoconferencing to feel more natural and engaging, so that participants can connect with one another in ways that transcend the limits of geography. Meeting participants can connect via PCs or Macs, or can join a Microsoft Mesh meeting using a virtual reality headset. Microsoft Mesh takes everyone’s video feed and transforms it into an avatar, showing all avatars sitting together in one place—whether that’s a conference room or a bench in the park.

Microsoft’s focus is on enabling a shared experience, so that teams can come together in one place—no matter where in the world they’re actually located. By capturing and communicating words and facial expressions, this technology makes it possible for people to share ideas, verbal and nonverbal reactions to content, and a sense of presence, even if they’re miles apart.

These are only a few of the up-and-coming features that will improve employee engagement, productivity, and collaboration in the months and years ahead. Of course, not all of these innovations will be successful. Some will be adopted with enthusiasm, while others will fall by the wayside as people experiment with other tools.

One thing is for certain, though: as the technology landscape constantly changes, we’ll continue to keep a close eye on the latest innovations from Microsoft—as well as what our clients are asking for (and what they’re asking to turn off). This helps us help you stay ahead of the curve.

To learn more about Netrix Global and how we help organizations—regardless of whether their workforces are global or local—enhance collaboration and improve productivity, contact a member of our team of experts today.


Eric Xu

Eric Xu is a consultant in the Modern Applications & Data Intelligence practice at Netrix Global. His expertise in cloud solutions allows him to translate technical concepts into actionable strategies to optimize productivity and collaboration. Passionate about empowering people through technology, Eric excels at prioritizing clients’ needs, then delivering tailored solutions that drive business success. Prior to Netrix, Eric earned his master’s degree in information technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.”