A Microsoft Teams smart speaker moves Cortana to the conference room



Microsoft’s Cortana-powered consumer speakers are dead. Long live…Cortana powered Teams speakers?

During a Microsoft Ignite keynote by Jared Spataro, the vice president of Microsoft 365, Microsoft showed off a demonstration room powered by some of its latest hardware, including the 85-inch Surface Hub 2S, plus companion devices like Teams Rooms, which are third-party bundles of cameras and small displays for facilitating meetings.  

Microsoft’s idea is that the Teams Rooms devices will manage the meetings, with voice assistance using Cortana, and capabilities like Teams casting and the Room remote app for facilitating conferences. One of the key capabilities of the Microsoft Teams software is its ability to listen to, record, and transcribe the conversation. Those capabilities are coming to Teams as a recap of the meeting, complete with a recording, transcription, and shared files. 

Apparently, however, Microsoft will need external speakers, both to broadcast people’s voices and act as additional microphones for the videoconference. Enter the so-far-undisclosed Teams speaker.

The Teams speaker was shown off during a segment of the presentation in which Aya Tange, a Microsoft product marketing manager, showed off new hardware. Tange said the new speaker will allow attendees to spend less time note-taking and follow the conversation more easily. “This will help meetings become more inclusive for both remote as well as in-room attendees,” she said.

The speakers do appear to be Cortana-powered. “Cortana, end my meeting,” Tange said, ending the demonstration. Microsoft representatives hadn’t responded to a request for comment by press time.

Microsoft confirmed the speaker’s presence. “We are bringing to market next year a new category of intelligent speakers for Microsoft Teams Rooms with EPOS and Yealink as partners at launch,” a Microsoft representative said in an email.

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