Microsoft adds live transcription to Teams

The Teams live transcription feature bolsters collaboration and lets workers quickly catch up on meetings they've missed. Microsoft includes the capability with a 365 subscription.

Microsoft has made it easier for workers to review what happened during a meeting by making live transcription available for Teams.

The company said the feature, which creates a written record of what was said and by whom, is helpful to employees who miss a meeting, join a discussion late or are hard of hearing. Live transcription creates a near-real-time running transcript that appears as a sidebar during the session and is saved for use later.

The feature, released this week, works in only English and is available to Microsoft 365 subscribers with E3, E5, Business Standard and Business Premium licenses.

The transcript identifies meeting participants and attributes quotes to the speaker. Forrester Research analyst Art Schoeller said attribution is what makes the feature helpful.

"Otherwise, you [would] just have a pile of undifferentiated text," he said.

Transcription has become standard for video conferencing providers. Teams competitors Zoom and Google Meet integrate with to provide transcripts. Cisco bought Voicea in 2019 to provide a built-in transcription feature for Webex meetings.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research, said having a transcript frees employees from taking notes during an important meeting, making them more apt to interact.

"Companies are looking to create better collaboration [and] more inclusive meetings [that] have more participation and engagement. Transcription's a core feature of that," he said.

Microsoft Teams adds live transcription feature that provides a near-real-time record of meetings.
Microsoft Teams' live transcription feature provides a near-real-time record of meetings.

Meeting transcripts can be a headache for companies, as well as a benefit, Schoeller said. If a meeting discusses a sensitive topic, having an easily shareable record of it could pose a risk if, for example, an employee sends it to someone outside the company. Such a scenario worries data protection officers.

"Records information managers are usually [left] standing at the platform when the train already left without them," he said.

Microsoft said it had taken steps to ensure privacy. No one at Microsoft sees the meeting's content, and it does not use or store meeting data to improve its AI. Teams notifies meeting participants that live transcription is taking place and lets them opt out of speaker attribution.

Live transcription is another effort by Microsoft to include artificial intelligence in its 365 productivity suite. The company has introduced a presentation coach feature for PowerPoint and a transcription tool for Word.

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily News, Walpole Times, Sharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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