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Conference on Microsoft Teams with a person eating a chip bag

As working from home becomes the new normal, AI may protect you from the sound of coworkers munching while they chat.

What’s new: No more smacking lips and rustling chip bags! Microsoft’s online collaboration platform Teams announced a feature that removes extraneous sounds from videoconferences.

How it works: The Teams team trained neural networks to recognize and filter out non-speech noises using datasets they built for the 2020 Deep Noise Suppression Challenge.

  • The researchers curated 500 hours worth of 30 second clips from a repository of public-domain audiobooks.
  • They combined half of this set with 60,000 annotated clips from YouTube videos. Those files represented 150 different classes of noise including hours of crinkling and chewing.
  • A recurrent neural net learned the difference between voices overlaid with noise and their clean counterparts.
  • Microsoft expects to make the feature available later this year.

Behind the news: People across the globe are hunkering down for a long virus season. Zoom added more than 2 million monthly active users in January and February, more than in all of 2019. Microsoft Teams’ daily user count shot up from 13 million to 44 million between July 2019 and March 2020. Slack, the other big telecommuting program, hasn’t published monthly average user numbers since October, when the tally was 12 million.

Why it matters: Nobody wants to listen to your mukbang during working hours.

We’re thinking: Next, can we get a feature that filters out intrusive toddlers?


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