Thanks to a new update, there's no need to tidy up the bedroom for an upcoming Skype conference call — just let artificial intelligence do the work.
Microsoft's video conferencing service is introducing automatic background blurring so users can avoid the embarrassment of showing their co-workers just how filthy their home is. Coincidentally, it also ensures that certain objects don't end up on camera by accident.
Skype Blurs Your Background Now
According to Skype, the features works similar to the background blur functionality in Microsoft Teams. This, introduced back in September, uses AI to detect hair, hands, and arms to identify the subject and leave everything else blurred, not unlike the portrait mode found on most phones these days.
To activate the feature, simply hover over the Skype video button while on a call and select "blur my background." It will then blur out the surroundings but leave the subject in focus. Alternatively, while on a call, right-click on the camera feed at the top right corner of the screen and click the "blur my background" option in the popup menu.
Don't rely on it just yet, though. While Microsoft is making it available on the latest version of Skype for desktop and laptops, the feature is still somewhat experimental. In other words, it's not going to work perfectly 100 percent of the time.
"We do our best to make sure that your background is always blurred, but we cannot guarantee that your background will always be blurred," said Skype in an announcement. Translation: There's a chance Skype gets it wrong and shows a bedroom in all its squalid glory, so it's best not to go full slob just yet.
How About Totally Blocking Out The Background?
Still, though, this is an important development, and one that would likely trickle down other video conferencing apps as well. If so, that means the AI would be perfected over time, resulting in more accurate subject detection and perhaps even more natural-looking blurs. The AI might one day be even smart enough to block out the background completely, green screen style. Skype didn't share future initiatives for background blur feature, but this would be absolutely cool, not to mention potentially life-saving, if implemented in the future.
Skype is available as a free download on PC, Mac, Android, and iOS. Users must first download and install the latest version of Skype to use the background blur feature. Again, practice great caution.