Microsoft Teams has added a new ‘Together’ mode to its video conference calls, which arranges call attendees in a virtual theatre setting, instead of being separated in boxes.

“On one level, Together mode is a simple approach to making meetings feel better during the pandemic, however, there’s also a deeper level that touches on our latest scientific understandings of cognition, social perception, and communication,” explained Jaron Lanier, Chief Scientist at Microsoft.

Together mode is intended to reduce meeting fatigue, make it easier to concentrate during meetings, establish a setting that is more comfortable for people to enter the conversation.

This new mode is rolling out now and will be generally available in August.

“Together mode creates a usable illusion that the eye contact problem has been mitigated… the illusion is based on the unique geometry; everyone is looking at the whole group through a big virtual mirror,” Lanier stated.

“Once direct eye contact errors become hard to detect, people intuitively position themselves to look as if they are reacting to one another appropriately.”

Microsoft has plans to expand the number of possible active participants on a group video call to 1,000 and create a type of call for presentations that can host as many as 20,000 view-only attendees.