Microsoft Adds Custom Background Effects for Its Communication App

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. blur / blɜr / (v) – to make something unclear or less visible

    The smoke blurred my vision.

  2. distraction / dɪˈstræk ʃən / (n) – something that prevents someone from focusing on something else

    Drivers are advised to lessen distractions in their cars to avoid accidents.

  3. guarantee / ˌgær ənˈti / (n) – a promise that something will happen or be fulfilled

    They decided to take the job even though there was no guarantee that they will become regular employees.

  4. catch up with (someone/something) / kætʃˌʌp wɪθ / (phrasal) – to reach the same level as someone/something in terms of standard or quality

    The company is working hard to catch up with its rival’s innovations.

  5. prompt / prɒmpt / (v) – to bring about an action

    Andy’s low salary prompted him to look for a new job.


Read the text below.

Microsoft has rolled out a new feature that enables users to add their own background images for video calls on its business communication platform, Teams.

Even before the release of the feature, Teams had already been offering templates and other effects for users who wanted to blur their actual backgrounds and remove distractions during meetings.

With the new feature, users can now upload their own images to customize their backgrounds during meetings.

Users can easily change their background images by clicking the button at the bottom of the Teams app screen. To upload their own images, they just need to click the “add new” option. Only files in JPEG, PNG, or BMP format will be accepted by the app.

Aside from rolling out the new feature, Microsoft also added a new set of template images that can be used as virtual backgrounds. Users can choose from different options such as LEGO pieces, the Simpsons’ living room, and a classic Solitaire template.

Despite the advantages of the new update, Microsoft warned that there is no guarantee that background effects can hide sensitive information from others during meetings.

Some experts believe that the latest update is Microsoft’s way to catch up with rival communications technology company Zoom and convince users to continue using Teams.

However, Microsoft asserted that the rising number of people using Teams is what prompted them to release the update. The company said that they aim to help make online meetings more personalized, productive, and enjoyable for their customers.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Would you be willing to use Teams even if there’s no guarantee that background effects can hide sensitive information? Why or why not?
• Aside from background effects, what other interesting features should Microsoft develop for its communication platform? Discuss.

Discussion B

• What features do you think should be a top priority when choosing online platforms (e.g. security features, design features, system/interface features)? Explain.
• If you were to improve an app or online platform that you’re currently using, which app or platform would it be and what kind of improvement would you do? Explain.