First experiences with background blur in Microsoft Teams

Back in March this year, Microsoft announced the background blur feature coming to Microsoft Teams at the Enterprise Connect conference.

Here’s a link to the Microsoft blog talking about the feature:

Here’s a link to a tweet mentioning it as well:

A few people took photos at the live demo, as found on blog posts by Pexip’s Graham Walsh and by fellow Microsoft MVP Tom Arbuthnot.

Recently I had this lit up in my tenant and have been using it wherever possible. Now, before any fellow MVPs cry NDA foul – I have been cleared by Microsoft to show what it looks like as I’ve linked to the already-available public content; so this is nothing new other than its availability in my tenant.

Here’s a video of a quick test in a solo meeting:


I’ve also run this in longer meetings with other people and found that there was no noticeable performance hit on my system (I’m running a Surface Book 2 with an i7 and 8GB RAM).

For people on the other end, the experience looked a bit like I was in front of a green screen in that the rendering of me vs. the background was noticeably different other than the obvious blur. I suspect this perception challenge was due to there being so much background to blur and so many objects providing a frame of depth, whereas I think if I was in a small meeting room with a wall behind me it would have been less perceptible.

Unfortunately, it is not listed on the Office 365 roadmap so I’m not able to give an indication of when it may be rolling out to production tenants. However as the Microsoft Ignite conference is around the corner and many announcements are banked up until then I suggest you follow me on Twitter as I’ll be sharing announcements as they come to hand (and if you’re attending come along to some of my sessions).

Experiences with Cloud PBX (Skype for Business Online)

Over my years at Paradyne I had run Lync in a variety of environments – on-premises, in a datacentre, and with a couple of different hosted service providers.

Being acquired by ████████████ just over a year ago allowed us to bring the Paradyne cloud skills together with the ████████████ unified communications skills – specifically with Skype for Business.

For the past year we’ve been running in an on-premises environment, and have held off moving our users to Cloud PBX in Skype for Business Online for a couple of major reasons:

  • No Response Groups (aka Hunt Groups)
  • No PSTN calling

In fact PSTN Conferencing was only made available in Australia on the 1st of September 2016.

When I visited the Hyperfish office in Kirkland WA late last year I was jealous of their use of full Cloud PBX functionality – something we couldn’t have in Australia.

So the only choices available in Australia (and most other parts of the world that aren’t USA, UK or France) for organisations that have Skype for Business on-premises infrastructure is to utilise a hybrid deployment where all calls are still routed via the on-premises infrastructure but users live in Cloud PBX. A simplified version utilises the “Cloud Connector Edition” which requires less on-premises infrastructure. Anyway, I digress.

To get Cloud PBX working with on-premises infrastructure is somewhat straight-forward and available in this article:

The experience

As an end user I haven’t really noticed any difference. The only thing that threw me is that instead of having a localised dial-in conferencing number assigned based on user location policy, in Australia we only have a single number with a Sydney prefix (02). How I was thrown was when I dialled in a customer they asked me if I was Sydney-based (I am actually based in Melbourne).

However you can assign numbers from various capital cities to individual users by following the process on this support page:

(I have since done that for myself and now have an 03 Melbourne prefix for my dial-in number.)

I don’t really do much international conferencing with parties that don’t already have Skype for Business – but if that were to arise I can easily enable PSTN conference dial-in numbers for other countries:

The only loss of functionality is the Unified Messaging functionality. As we were using Exchange Online there was no Australian language pack available which meant we never had voicemail preview (speech to text conversion), so all I’ve lost is the embedded media player:

And now instead receive the voicemail as MP3 file attachment:

Apart from that the experience is no different than on-premises. The call quality both when on a PSTN call or conference call is superb, and we can now see the usage details in the Skype for Business Online admin centre:

As well as the ability to see call quality in the Skype Call Quality Dashboard:

My migration experience: barely noticeable.

My usage experience: same as before.