Microsoft finally adds support for blurred backgrounds on Skype for Android
Android is the last platform to gain support for the feature - even Skype for Linux has had this important 'work-from-home feature for a while now.
While online meetings were previously reserved for communicating with long-distance colleagues and clients, the pandemic has made sure they are now the norm for intra-team communication as well. Skype, one of the world's most widely used communication tools, has finally added support for an important work from home requirement - blurring your background on Android.
In an update that began rolling out earlier this week, Microsoft added support for blurring your background on Android devices running Android Marshmallow (6.0) and above. You would think that Microsoft would release this feature for Android first, considering that it has greater market share globally, but this has already existed on Skype for Apple's iOS for two years now. In fact, Skype for Windows, macOS, iOS, Linux as well as the zero-install web interface have all supported blurring your background before Android gained the new functionality.
Background blur lets you continue your conversations without distracting your contacts, by focusing on your face and blurring everything else in the background, presumably using machine learning and edge detection to identify a cutout of your face and blur everything else around it.
Enabling the feature is simple - you can go to the three-dot menu and then tap 'Blur my background' while you're already in a call. The feature works extremely reliably, with the software blurring not just static backgrounds, but also moving objects and people moving around you.
Another handy feature has received an update as well - Reactions. Microsoft says that when you receive an instant message, you'll see the usual smiley next to it, you'll be able to react using different emoji reactions. Microsoft's support page does say that these reactions will vary as per the region you live in, so you may probably not see some reactions due to local laws or other issues. You can also customise the reactions menu to add even more reactions, according to the company.