Microsoft Tackles Video Call Background Noise

John Lister's picture

Microsoft is releasing a tool that uses artificial intelligence to block out background noise during video calls. The Microsoft Teams tool aims to distinguish between human speech and other sources of sound.

The need for such a tool will have grown for many users this year given the increase in those working from home. Previously, videoconferencing was more commonly associated with business settings where staff could make calls in ideal settings such as dedicated meeting rooms with no sources of unwanted sounds.

Now, many people are using the same videoconferencing software in conditions where background noise can leak even through microphones. Traffic going past a house, unruly children and barking dogs have all become familiar but unwelcome backdrops to many calls. Perhaps based on user experience, Microsoft's demonstrations of the technology involve a man crumpling up food packaging such as a potato chips bag.

Users will have three settings if they turn the feature on. "Low" aims to filter out persistent background noise such as air conditioning and computer fans while still allowing music to get through. "High" is more aggressive and tries to block anything that isn't speech. "Auto" is the default setting and aims to adjust what is and isn't filtered based on the specific and changing condition. (Source:

Feature Simulates Brain

Microsoft says it is using artificial intelligence to distinguish between speech and other sounds, specifically a neural network. That's where software aims to recreate the way the human brain operates to not only create rules but to refine those rules over time as it learns from more data.

The feature won't be available to everyone right away. It only works on the desktop version of Teams (not mobile apps) and only where the computer's processor supports a feature called Advanced Vector Extensions 2. That includes many, but not all, processors built in the past few years.

Processing Demands Higher

The feature does use additional processing power on the computer, so it could affect performance on some machines. If this happens, the software may automatically revert to the "Low" setting. (Source:

To switch on the function, if available, users can click on their profile picture in the top right corner of Microsoft Teams, select "Settings" and "Devices" and then choose an option.

What's Your Opinion?

Is this a worthwhile project? Have you found background noise annoying on video calls? Is software a better solution that simply asking people to remove the source of the noise?

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pctyson's picture

I think the best background noise example given is the dog barking. Most other noises can be blocked out by simply shutting the door to the home office and keeping the constant and expected noises low. However, when the delivery man arrives and the "warning alarm" (dogs) sound, this is unexpected, loud, sharp and difficult to prepare for. Although possibly necessary in many cases, you can lock the animals up throughout the day but this does not seem to be a fair solution.