One of the better customer experience features is the noise cancellation option for use during Teams meetings. Even before the surge in video conferencing, it has been a common experience to have one or two attendees render a meeting annoying or downright uncomfortable with their inability to either use the mute button or find a quiet location.
Clacking keyboards, airport chatter, or noisy office conditions frequently make meetings less productive. As more and more employees have worked from home during the pandemic, dogs, vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers, and other distractions have been added to the mix. Some of the background noise need not be as acute as the examples above to cause an echo or other disruption for all participants.
Help has Arrived
Fortunately, MS Teams has taken a meaningful step toward mitigating the impact of these occurrences with their noise suppression feature. Microsoft first implemented noise suppression in its Stream application in 2019 and in March of 2020, Microsoft announced that they had noise suppression capability ready for MS Teams. The feature rolled out in the fourth quarter of 2020 and is sure to be a game-changer in terms of the experience on a Teams call.
It is an AI-based technology capable of canceling out most unwanted sounds leaving just the human voice audible to the rest of the audience. According to Microsoft, the technology works by “using specially trained deep neural networks to filter out the noise and retain only the speech signal.”
A neural network is a collection of algorithms that endeavor to mimic how the human brain learns from the environment. In this case, the neural network learns to recognize the characteristics of the human voice and differentiate between that and, say a loud bag of chips ruffling in the background (or even an open-mouthed eater crunching in the foreground)!
For example, a participant that is speaking as the doorbell rings and stirs every dog in the house can simply continue speaking with confidence that the audience will be hearing only what is intended.
To get started, follow these instructions.
From the main Teams page in the desktop application:
1. Click on your profile icon in the top right corner.
2. Select Settings
3. Select Devices
4. Look for Noise Suppression and choose from Default, High, Low, or Off.
That is it. Once you have selected this option, it will retain your selection until you go back in and adjust it.
There are some notable limitations. Most importantly, this feature is currently available only on the desktop version of MS Teams. The mobile and web applications are not supported. The mobile users are, in most cases, the ones who need noise suppression the most, so this is a significant limitation.
Next, the feature does not work if the meeting is either being recorded or if live captions are turned on. Finally, selecting high will tax your computer’s resources a bit more. If the application determines the feature is consuming too much of the system’s resources on high, Teams will automatically change the setting to low.
We tested a range of noises and could conduct meetings even while music was playing in the background, a carpet was vacuumed and we were crinkling potato crisp bags. Dogs barking, were however the Achilles heel, that still managed to come through clearly.
So, go ahead and give it a try. Since it is a feature that can only be seen in the settings, it is probably worth spreading the word with others. Your meeting participants will thank you!