Coffee shop meetings and family vacations are back — virtually — with Together mode in Skype
01/07/2021 | Skype Blogs | Together mode
Skype’s new Together mode scenes can virtually whisk you away to a tropical vacation, a festive birthday party complete with balloons, and even on board an airplane. This fun feature digitally places call participants in a shared space, making it feel like everyone’s in the same room (or on the same tropical island sipping fruity drinks).
The same technology that put basketball fans “courtside” at NBA games can virtually unite you with your family, friends, colleagues and coworkers — whether it’s for happy hour at a trendy bar or an early-morning coffee shop meeting.
Ready for a long-awaited holiday? Escape to the picturesque Greek island of Santorini or watch a tropical sunset in Bali. We’ve created a variety of stunning new scenes where you can join your whole crew for a virtual gathering like no other – without ever leaving home.
Together mode is the result of decades of research and product development by Microsoft engineers — including Walid Boumerdassi, Henrik Turbell and David Zhao — and fueled by a drive to create unique solutions to connect people when they can’t physically be together.
So how does it work? “Together mode uses the same AI-based person segmentation algorithm as the background blur feature,” Turbell explains. “Each frame is processed by a deep neural network to classify each pixel as foreground or background. The foreground is then composited into the Together mode scene. All of this processing is powered by Azure so that Together mode works on nearly any device, regardless of the meeting size.”
Put more simply: Together mode intelligently detects people in a video call and instantly places them within a fun new background of their choice, making it feel like you’re sitting in a room (or on the beach) together.
And besides providing a change of scenery, Microsoft research shows that a meeting in Together mode takes less work from your brain compared to a meeting in regular grid view – meaning you can focus your brain power on your brainstorming session instead.
Microsoft’s engineering team took full advantage of the technology during the development process: “Due to the pandemic, we’ve never met most of these colleagues in person,” Boumerdassi says. “Most of the team’s communication was done in an early version of Together mode.”
And for those missing the journey, not just the destination, keep an eye out for the new Airplane scene landing soon: You and your favorite travel buddies will be able to hang out at 30,000 feet without ever leaving home — no baggage fees required.
And while we’ve missed air travel like crazy — yes, even the tiny bags of peanuts — here at Skype, we know home is where the heart is. So whether that’s cozied up around the fireplace in a winter lodge or gathered around the dinner table for an intimate meal, Together mode can take you there. Hop on a call and try it out now!
Got questions about using Together mode? Check out our support article to get the lowdown. And we’d love to hear about what scenes you’d like us to create next for Together mode — luxury yacht on the French Riviera, anyone? — so let us know by chiming in on Skype Community, where millions of users share their Skype stories, experiences, and feedback.