back to article Microsoft injects AI into Teams so no one will ever forget what the meeting decided

Microsoft Teams – one of the go-to video meetup tools of the pandemic – is promising to "re-energize employees to achieve business results" by injecting a bit of AI into the mix. Exploiting the functionality of OpenAI's GPT-3.5, the brains behind the chatbot-on-steroids ChatGPT, Microsoft says Teams Premium will offer a slew …

  1. tiggity Silver badge

    Sort out the basics

    As someone who has to use Teams for work...

    It uses a ludicrously huge amount of resources.

    Plenty of bugs that need fixing, some quite irritating, my 2 most hated bugs are:

    e.g. 1. sound / video often fails to work correctly on meetings, especially if you have the temerity to switch between different camera and microphone / headset setups*

    e.g. 2 Intermittent, but quite often Teams suddenly stops sending you reminders of meetings. Which can be a PITA when you are deeply focused on work & easy to lose track of time & you rely on the annoying noise of a meeting alert to snap you out of dev mode & into meeting tedium mode.

    * When WFH will sometimes use webcam (with inbuilt mic) for video and audio, other times inbuilt laptop camera and mic (depends on how good the video quality needs to be), and sound output via laptop inbuilt speakers. In the office will use a headset (don't do that at home as prefer not to have kits on my head as it's not comfy) but obviously in office do not want your audio to disturb others.

    Please fix the many faults before adding yet more (doubtless even more resource consuming) frippery.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sort out the basics

      The fact that Teams lacks some of the basic functionality of Zoom, such as the ability to test your speakers & microphone directly (as opposed to Microsoft's dumb@ss "make a call" test in the paid versions), just underscores that Teams is yet another Microsoft product that isn't used within Microsoft.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sort out the basics

        The 'make a test call' thing is something they took from Skype, another good product they butchered (and, if my memory serves me correctly, was discovered as early as 2004 on intercepting messages).

        I see no good reason to trust Teams any more than I trusted Skype, but I had to wipe and reset an old iPhone to have at least something it can run on without having access to any information (it has no address book, and was logged out of anything Apple related after installation of Teams) all because they have infected enough companies with it that some dimwits are unable to use anything else, and sadly I still need to interface with these dimwits.

    2. ITMA Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Sort out the basics

      Add to that Teams setting itself to auto start when you sign in to Windows, even when you've turned it OFF in Startup Apps (as does Skype using the crummy Meet Now in the notification area).

      STOP DOING THAT!!!!!

      If I've turned it off in Startup Apps LEAVE IT TURNED OFF!...

      1. ITMA Silver badge

        Re: Sort out the basics

        Yes I know you can turn off autostart within Teams, but really, two settings for the same thing?

        Worse still, you have to sign in to Teams to turn it off. Just like Skype... WHY????

    3. ITMA Silver badge

      Re: Sort out the basics

      And now Microsoft have foisted "reactions" into 365 email with NO WAY TO TURN THE F**KERS OFF!

      Yet another idea from the morons at Microsoft....

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Sort out the basics

        "with NO WAY TO TURN THE F**KERS OFF!"

        I turned off Microsoft 13 years ago. Haven't looked back.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    eh?

    How about start with fscking folders for my teams? Then maybe a working search box. Baby steps lads, baby steps

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: eh?

      Just the ability to automatically sort teams alphabetically, rather than having to drag and drop them into place. That was a widely requested feature years ago, and should be trivial to implement.

      But if I've learned anything about the development team for Teams over the past few years, it's that they devote pretty much all their resources to Shiny, and Easy to Fix is anathema to them.

      Hell, scrolling frequently doesn't work in Teams.

  3. Jadith

    Another Day...

    another feature nobody wanted, needed, or find helpful.

    On the bright side, I'm sure it will introduce new bugs and is almost garunteed, based on past experiences, to be just outside of working in a way anyone will find useful. Then whatever team is behind it will move on, noone else will pick it up, and it will sit in the background witing to break everything at some update in the future.

    Yanno, it's nice to know that some things never change, adds a sort of stability to life. Unfortunately it addss none to Teams.

  4. nautica Silver badge
    Happy

    One needs to consider ALL possible consequences...

    "Microsoft injects AI into Teams so no one will ever forget what the meeting decided"

    Microsoft is running the very real risk that "...what the meeting decided..." was to not use 'Teams' ever again.

  5. cornetman Silver badge

    So wait: Teams is going to be listening in on your private conversations?

    That doesn't sounds like the kind of functionality I would be very keen on in a business setting.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It already does, that's how the subtitles option works.

      1. cornetman Silver badge

        Weird.

        Given how anal a lot of companies seem to be about security and encryption, they would be happy for Microsoft to listen to, record and analyse all of their business conversations? Are they insane?

        1. jake Silver badge

          "Are they insane?"

          I'm beginning to think so ... As I've been saying for years, one wonders why the world's corporate lawyers allow any of Redmond's clusterfucks in the door in the first place. Shirley they , of all people, have read the fine print in the EULA?

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          I think it's the Escalation of Commitment fallacy. A CIO sees that Windows and Office are widespread in the organization – Windows because OEMs put it on machines by default, Office because of network effects (the more businesses insist on it, the more entrenched it becomes). So the CIO says "well, to make this simpler, we're going to go with Office 365". And then might as well start using Sharepoint and OneDrive, since those already have a foot in the door. There's some grumbling among the ranks, so the CIO has to justify past decisions by doubling down and bringing in Teams too.

          And then someone says, hey, if you're doing meetings with Teams, you can turn on this automatic transcript feature! That ought to raise a flag, but the folks who approved O365 and Teams can't retreat now, so they say yes, this is a brilliant idea, and let's not think about how that might work. All our proprietary and sensitive data is already floating about in Microsoft's cloud anyway, so what's the (additional) harm?

          And so it goes. Having had to decide once that Microsoft is Good For Business, they have to bolster that commitment at every opportunity. To do otherwise would admit they were wrong.

          We've had a number of superior solutions that were already in use and popular with employees be pushed aside because Moar Microsoft. That includes cases where the Microsoft replacement wasn't even satisfying anything like the same use case, and in fact did nothing useful, resulting in a serious loss of functionality.

    2. Steve Button Silver badge

      I would have thought this could actually be quite useful. To record who took actions and automatically write up the minutes of a meeting, and then even remind people that's what they agreed.

      Of course it will be crap to begin with, but given time it might be something I would use a lot.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If it's like ChatGTP, it will produce garbage that only looks good to the dimwitted.

        "Human: How many bears have Russians sent into space?

        GPT-3: Russians have sent a total of 52 bears into space. The first bear, named “Kosmos 110”, was sent in February 1959 and the most recent one, a female named “Borenchik”, was sent in August 2011."

        https://mindmatters.ai/2023/01/large-language-models-can-entertain-but-are-they-useful/

        1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          large-language-models-can-entertain

          Thanks for the laugh. I count that as useful.

        2. Steve Button Silver badge

          It's not that bad at writing code, it already does a better job that I do (note to future employers: That's a joke). It *does* actually spit out what looks like it might be useful boiler plate code - on the ONE time I've played with it.

          As for taking minutes, I did say "time" although I didn't specify how much. Who knows? I might still be working for charities when I'm 80, where NO ONE can really be bothered to take the minutes, so you end up trying to chair the meeting and take minutes at the same time (and therefore doing only a half decent job of each), so it *might* be useful at some point in the future.

          Anyway, do you know for A FACT that Russia have not sent 52 bears into space? Can you prove it? Perhaps it's just better informed than the rest of you sheeple.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        While this might be useful, you have to weigh the risks and benefits. Anyone who holds online meetings a lot should already have a strategy for minutes. Personally, I still prefer to take written notes and type them up (this increases the ability to remember anything) but lots of tools have support for defining and assigning action items. Automating this might only encourage even less discipline: meetings should be short and focussed. Anything that supports that is good, anything else is shit.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          It also becomes a False Authority.

          When meeting participants create written records of whatever sort – minutes, notes, action items, and so on – there's an attributable human author who can be questioned and made to defend those records. There can be discrepancies among authors which prompts the participants to debate and resolve those discrepancies, possibly clarifying misunderstandings and helping build consensus. If a machine does it, well, The Computer Is Always Right and you must have misunderstood or misremembered.

          It's a terrible idea. Automating things humans are good at, and which have good consequences for humans, is counter-productive. Automate the things people aren't good at, or that are bad for people to do.

      3. William Towle
        Angel

        Nod.

        I noted in the pandemic that I wasn't coming away from Teams meetings with useful notes. To make matters worse, the manner [grumble] in which the desktop sharing feature was being (ab)used to submit commentary to the issue tracker meant its record of contributions didn't even echo who said what.

        Given the quality of closed captions I'm not holding my breath with regard to whether this might be functional enough to be useful, although to be fair the closed captions were fairly decent for the various non-native English speakers we had - less so for the various Brit regions, but at least that was amusing when it was bad ... I'm sure the team could probably tell when I had them on because I'd start to smirk!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It was discovered by chance in 2004 that Microsoft was intercepting Skype messages and, given that nobody ever picked up on that, I suspect they're happily growing these efforts.

      For those that missed it, it was discovered in Germany by two people working on a website. They were keeping an eye on the logs as they were running tests (ditto here, I like having a tail running of access.log and error.log when I'm testing something), and were astonished to get a hit from a Microsoft IP address within a second from the (very random) URL being mentioned in Skype - a URL that had not been mentioned anywhere outside the Skype chat. I've been monitoring it myself for a while after that and the pings moved from US IP addresses to Europe (Dublin, I think), and eventually it moved into Azure. I think that was around 2008 - I haven't kept an eye on it after that because they then started to camouflage it by offering a preview of every link you entered, so turning it into a "feature".

      So, long story short, I personally don't trust Microsoft at all.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I can see this reaching a few of the more paranoid execs out there and banning Teams from their network and banning clients from discussing them or their projects on MS Teams. (Also, HIPAA violation? GDPR? I can imagine a lot of legal departments being unhappy about this)

      And yes, I do have some people in mind, which is why I'm posting anonymously.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        As for GDPR: Maybe Microsoft reaches a level where Europe or Germany will make its first "Class Action Lawsuit". Not exactly they way this is implemented in the US, that won't work here. But using the US CAL as a template.

  6. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Happy

    Will it inject

    AI into the meeting?

    <<spent 90 mins today sitting in on a teleconference with the boss, the beancounter and our 2nd best customer..... zzzzzzzzzzz<jog> wassat? no we cant make 20 000 by tommorrow ... zzzzzzzz

  7. JoeCool Silver badge

    Oh good

    Another ticky-box exercise for the fast-trackers to game so that they look good in the management reports.

    Let me guess. The "performance" measure will be based on ... how much talking an individual does even if the statements are not related or "fyi"; if they talk over people; or re-cite previous statements in a way that the AI noe attributes it to them; how many loud proclamations they make; how many tasks they take on, then delegate to "someone else" outside of teams.

    I feel an oncoming uptick in "postal" episodes.

  8. Ideasource Bronze badge

    Everyone's an unofficial ai debugger now

    Spend half the week chasing down false trails created by the AI, the next quarter of the week in meetings justifying what you been spending your time on.

    Leaving one quarter of the week for productivity.

    This seems to be yet another standard cocaine inspired executive decision with traditional failed results.

    Some hard working low level employees will be scapegoated and sacked to stabilize quarterly finance reports , while the the one(s) who made this ill-fated decision, will skip away salary intact. avoiding accountability and fair consequence once again.

  9. captain veg Silver badge

    sounds ghastly

    With any luck they won't bother bringing this "functionality" to the Linux version.

    -A.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: sounds ghastly

      That would be in line with their past history of not bringing ANY functionality to the Linux version.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: sounds ghastly

      It runs on the server, where all your data is processed anyway.

  10. jake Silver badge

    Team Meetings?

    Is that to decide which players get to start this week and who is benched and so can sit it out?

    This "slacker" works for a living, and has no time for meetings.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Team Meetings?

      People love to complain about meetings, but for my entire career I've found them absolutely critical to the development process, and most of them have actually been productive.

      I would not want to see the output of a team that never meets.

      Of course it is possible to do meetings poorly. That is not the fault of the meeting.

  11. Notas Badoff

    Missing in action

    An AI helping at improving organization seems likely to fail, when such organization doesn't already exist.

    My "to wish for" standard of meeting notes looks like this: [CSSWG] Minutes Telecon 2023-01-25 [css-nesting] [css-text] [css-pseudo] and like this: www-style@w3.org from January 2023 by date

    But that requires people being organized when coming to a meeting and a commitment to actually making progress. If not already true in your environment, new 'magic' won't work.

    It's hard to implement a magic bullet when your company is more into political paint ball tournaments.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Missing in action

      If not already true in your environment, new 'magic' won't work.

      Exactly.

      Information technologies have, any number of times, made huge improvements in the efficiency and productivity of knowledge work. There are any number of histories and other studies of this. For the modern era, a couple I've mentioned in the past are Yates's Control Through Communication (just the section on the evolution of filing mechanisms amply demonstrates the thesis) and Spinuzzi's Network.

      But that doesn't mean every new information technology will have that effect. The technology has to address an actual need, and it has to arrive within a structure which is already otherwise fairly successful within the limitations of its environment. If your problem is people, tools aren't going to fix it.

      A good example are the studies from the early 1990s showing that giving middle managers personal computers reduced their productivity, because it moved things like document creation away from experts (the typing pool, for example) into the hands of non-experts, and encouraged non-productive parasitic activity such as mucking about with typeface choices.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Missing in action

        The biggest waste of middle-management's time (and thus corporate $$) is the use of PowerPoint.

        At least we have proof that a million monkeys with a million typewriters will NOT reproduce Shakespeare ...

  12. Terafirma-NZ

    Can we now spy on others

    I wonder if the information it learns will be fed back into the training data then meeting information will be able to be searched via Bing out in the public. So all those Govt meetings and sensitive corp meetings become searchable.

  13. captain veg Silver badge

    translation

    I work for an American-headquartered international company.

    Whenever meetings involve people whose first language differs, they are held in English.

    Often the hardest people to understand in these meetings, for the non-native speakers, are Americans and Brits.

    Will this AI gubbins translate from, say, Herne Hill patois, to international English? Or from manglement-bollox to plain speaking?

    -A.

    1. Snapper

      Re: translation

      Eleven

  14. Pirate Dave Silver badge
    Pirate

    So, eh, does this "AI" run as part of the local client, or will it be a "cloud" process within Sharepoint/Azure/etc? The Teams client already uses ridiculously far more memory than it's worth. I can only imagine the bloat from adding AI on top of that will push it beyond "ludicrous". Great move, Microsoft. Making things worse, one day at a time.

  15. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Ghost attendees

    "AI-generated tasks and action items can be automatically allocated to individuals"

    Can it assign tasks and action items to people who missed the meeting, like how it's done here?

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Ghost attendees

      Can it go down amusing, tangential rabbit holes only for the original meeting organiser to despair of ever getting to the purpose of the meeting? Can it inexplicably extend the meeting past 12 noon, even though all salient points have been covered? We should be told ...

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Ghost attendees

      In the next release, it will presumably be able to hold the entire meeting by itself, so no one need attend. You'll just receive your ChatOrders™.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Ghost attendees

        Why not. RFC-439 shows what happens when you have a chatbot talking to itself. Ostensibly it was "The Doctor" talking to "PARRY", but both were merely instances of ELIZA.

        Of course back in 1972 we weren't stupid enough to take and act on their advice ...

  16. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    If only...

    ...the scrollbars would work reliably. If the don't work (again), you have to run Teams full-screen. No way to disable "Auto-hide" scrollbars or make them big enough to be usable, let alone with touch.

    ...the scrollbars in the middle-left part, for example in chat history, would not constantly get stuck because Teams thinks it has to reload something.

    ...you could have separate windows for the "Teams-function" to view documents and the other functions, so you don't waste time by switching forward and backward.

    ...it would remember where in the wiki or file storage of a team I am/was when switching between functions.

    ...it had an actually reliable way to disable auto-start, since it re-enables it every time you start it, so you need to auto-kill the autostart reg-key every time (or use weird ACL tricks).

    ...it wouldn't be necessary to kill the teams cache regularly to keep it somewhat working.

    ...it would have usable "contacts", and not every function its own contacts, favourites, history and so on.

    ...Microsoft would start to listen to customer feedback "like it was 20 years ago". The didn't listen so much better, but better.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: If only...

      There would be an option to turn off the automatic conversion of punctuation in chat messages into fucking emoji.

      The "quoted text" format wouldn't put all the text in italics.

      Hotkeys for character formatting would work correctly, instead of turning formatting on and off at random points in the text.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hi, how are you?

    If Teams AI could handle all the Hi's and only display a message when the person has asked what they want... that would be a great feature

  18. Gadfly88

    Work gets worse

    The recording and transcription alone are bad enough because people will not speak as candidly crack jokes, enjoy their freaking work life.

    If you’ve ever had to generate the minutes from meetings, you are aware of how delicately some issues must be Summarized. Meetings are often the negotiation between different issues and characters. Recaps can be destructive or constructive. I’m not sure how AI will know what the various sensitivities are in any specific team or meeting but, hey I guess we’ll see.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "re-energize employees to achieve business results"

    business owners like this one! - already included in this week's email to their minions! Re-energize to achieve business results. Missing some propa adjective though... spectacular business results? unparallel? ruptuous? thrilling? Chop-chop, I want the best adjective by eob, and the rest of you are FIRED!

  20. GlenP Silver badge

    Translation...

    Real time translation if it worked would actually be very useful for us, but given how badly Teams manages to transcribe English I wouldn't trust it to not create a deadly insult or some other faux pas.

    1. Craig 2

      Re: Translation...

      “I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle.”

      (Arthur Dent)

      1. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

        Re: Translation...

        Bugger... beat me to it.

        By way of explainin' for the unenlightened

        The Vl'Hurgs were a species who lived on the far reaches of the galaxy. They declared war on the G'Gugvuntts, the original reason being to force the G'Gugvuntts' leader to take back what it had said about the Vl'Hurg Commander's mother, when a freak wormhole carried Arthur's words, "I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle", into the midst of their negotiations - it just so happens that in the Vl'Hurgs' language, that phrase is considered the most dreadful insult imaginable. The Vl'Hurgs waged war on the G'Gugvuntts for a long time, until they realised that it had all been a terrible mistake, and the two armies joined forces to attack Earth. Unfortunately, due to a terrible miscalculation of scale, the entire fleet was eaten by a small dog.

        Vl'Hurgs typically wear black jewelled battle shorts as part of their uniforms.

        so sayeth The Book.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Translation...

        "My hovercraft is full of eels."

        (ChatGPT: "ACTION: Remove eels.")

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Translation...

          "(ChatGPT: "ACTION: Cold-smoke eels.")"

          FTFY

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Pete 2 Silver badge

    The perfect hack

    > Teams Premium will offer a slew of new features. For example, intelligent recap promises to offer "automatically generated meeting notes, recommended tasks, and personalized highlights,"

    So when the minutes of the meeting report that the finance and purchasing committee unanimously voted to buy £1000000 of Microsoft products, who could possibly challenge that. After all, it's in the minutes - so it must be right .... right?

    Next up: the AI recommends that the company buys an upgrade to the newest Microsoft AI. Repeat all over the world. One step closer to AI domination.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Joy unbounded

    Never used Teams. Just been invited to a job interview - remote, via Teams. (Un)fortunately, I use Linux. Worse, the Teams Linux app has been withdrawn in favour of some browser plug-in-ish webby-appy thing that demands Edge or Chrome. But I use Firefox and it cannot get past Firefox's privacy layer (or, in MS-speak, Firefox is not compatible with the Teams web wizzy thing). Moreover you have to already have a Teams account before you can log in via the webby appy thing anyway, and I don't.

    I also have a chromebook, which has an Android compatibility layer, so let's see whether it is possible to do this using the Android app. But if my dodgy celltower signal is low on the day, that'll be the interview out the window (sic). Wonder if I'll be able to sue MS for lost earnings?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Joy unbounded

      I use Chromium on Linux when I have the sad misfortune of being unable to avoid a Teams meeting. Currently also with uBlock Origin but for how long it supports that I don't know.

      No Google spyware and it works, at least enough to be present. And no crap about having to have a MS account to install the shit in the first place to join some other organisations choice of video call software.

      1. hayzoos

        Re: Joy unbounded

        FYI - Not only is Chromium available for Linux, so is ungoogled-chromium, and for Slackware another ungoogled-chromium, plus Chrome is available for Linux. Numerous chromium based browsers are available like Vivaldi, Brave, Edge, and so on.

      2. William Towle
        Unhappy

        Re: Joy unbounded

        > I use Chromium on Linux when I have the sad misfortune of being unable to avoid a Teams meeting. Currently also with uBlock Origin but for how long it supports that I don't know.

        I ended up installing proper google-chrome as everything else was temperamental, which I found to include [Debian's] chromium.

        The message on the Teams web client landing page turns out to have a few variations and forms a useful guide: with "install Edge" (on Windows without it) and "browser not supported" (otherwise) you know where you stand; if you get "continue in this browser" with the caveat "some features may not be supported" then your browser capabilities are close enough for the full set of compatibility tests later. Things get a bit awkward if those fail though, because without a spare machine to hand it's too little too late.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As someone who has logged hundreds of hours in middle management meetings in large enterprises, it boggles my mind to think anyone or anything could produce notes for the glut of meetings where nothing substantial is decided, accomplished or produced. Good luck throwing AI at that.

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