Microsoft is building a Teams tool that can tell if you're bored during a video call

The 'AffectiveSpotflight' is a form of facial recognition that aims to reduce anxiety for video conferencing hosts

A woman who looks bored on a video call

Microsoft researchers are testing a new feature for Teams that aims to provide speakers on calls with a near-real-time assessment of the moods and reactions of their audience.

The 'AffectiveSpotflight' is said to be built from a type of facial recognition algorithm that uses a neural network to capture and assess the expressions of call participants, monitoring for changes in emotions such as happiness, sadness and surprise.

The software is being developed by researchers across a number of Microsoft facilities in Redmond, Boston and Cambridge, MA, with findings expected to be revealed at Japan's CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in May.

The system is said to be able to spot subtle movements, such as the shake of a head, a furrowed brow, and even a raised eyebrow. Each of these is then rated between 0 and 1, with positive emotions scoring higher. The person with the highest score is highlighted to the presenter, every 15 seconds.

The facial expressions of the participants are also matched to datasets in Microsoft's Convolutional Neural Network (CNN), which has expression categories for anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, and neutral.

Related Resource

The workers' experience report

How technology can spark motivation, enhance productivity and strengthen security

The workers' experience report - how to compete in the digital eraDownload now

"Public speaking is often regarded as one of the most stressful daily activities and is heavily influenced by audience responses to the presenter," the research states. "In fact, studies that seek to reliably induce acute stress on people often involve giving a presentation in front of a neutral-looking audience (a.k.a., Trier social stress test). While research on audience responses in online settings is still nascent, there is prior work considering the impact of in-person audience responses, especially in the context of alleviating public speaking anxiety."

The feature isn't available on Microsoft Teams as yet, but it is very much in keeping with recent updates to the platform that focuses on wellbeing and combating so-called 'video call fatigue'.

However, this may be seen as a somewhat overly technical solution to a problem that is fairly easily solved with feedback, and it isn't difficult to imagine how this feature could create further anxiety as it tries to reduce it.

Featured Resources

Choosing a collaboration platform

Eight questions every IT leader should ask

Download now

Performance benchmark: PostgreSQL/ MongoDB

Helping developers choose a database

Download now

Customer service vs. customer experience

Three-step guide to modern customer experience

Download now

Taking a proactive approach to cyber security

A complete guide to penetration testing

Download now

Recommended

Microsoft Teams will soon make it easier to switch calls between devices
video conferencing

Microsoft Teams will soon make it easier to switch calls between devices

14 Dec 2020
JetBrains launches collaboration tool targeting software devs
collaboration

JetBrains launches collaboration tool targeting software devs

11 Dec 2020
Basecamp 3 review: More molehill than mountain
project management software

Basecamp 3 review: More molehill than mountain

30 Nov 2020
Zoom review: Are we alone now?
video conferencing

Zoom review: Are we alone now?

29 Apr 2020

Most Popular

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages
data centres

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages

7 Apr 2021
How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

8 Apr 2021
UK exploring plans to launch its own digital currency
digital currency

UK exploring plans to launch its own digital currency

19 Apr 2021