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Microsoft to Integrate Canon AMLOS with Microsoft Teams: One Camera in the Room, Many Videos Views with Simple Hand Gestures to Guide Camera

An interesting announcement at CES 2022 is that Microsoft Teams will be integrating Canon AMLOS.

Canon AMLOS was built to be "Single. Simple. Seamless." A single camera in the meeting room that creates multiple video streams, with simple to use hand gestures to guide it within the room, and seamlessly integrated to platform.

Let's take a look at it a little. (from CES Cannon press video)

Below is the AMLOS web app user interface. (Notice the hat tip to the Microsoft Teams UI.)





Showing one camera show both presenter and white board. The user can zoom into a detail on the white board with remote control. 


3 views: Presenter, room, and white board.



Remote users (source) can drag and drop views to see what they want to see. Local people in the room can control the meeting entirely with hand gestures. Can guide the camera to bring things to the attention of the remote users. CANONPRESENTER opened his hand in front of something and it zoomed into it and showed it. (what appeared to be a still?) (Matt's note: It appears that with a high quality PTZ camera you can use open hand to zoom in with video as well.)

A hand in the air can end the meeting.

AMLOS was built to be "Single. Simple. Seamless." A single camera in the meeting room that creates multiple video streams, with simple to use hand gestures to guide it within the room, and seamlessly integrated to platform.



Microsoft Teams is the first to integrate AMLOS technologies. By this spring (Spring 2022) will be able to take advantage of AMLOS.

Matt's Observations & Comments


This is an interesting development.

The Canon landing page notes: "The AMLOS solution utilizes Microsoft's Azure Communication Services (ACS), which requires out-bound connections to ACS servers." So the integration is likely a fairly tight integration with MS Teams, and not "in name only".

It is interesting that the Canon cameras specifically called out as working with AMLOS & MS Teams are the Canon CR300 & CR500, which are NDI HDX cameras. Does this mean that Microsoft Teams client and/or Microsoft Teams Room Systems (for Windows) will get (is indirectly getting?) official NDI HDX support as a camera? (The MS Teams client can already output NDI HDX streams) 

It seems the way the remote user changes their view of the remote AMLOS based Teams caller is by going into a AMLOS cloud User Interface? I think so.

I could see it being useful for the AMLOS remote view changer user interface showing up on a Teams Room System controller or mobile phone app. I don't know if there are plans for this though.

I'm still doing more digging (and have signed up for a Canon AMLOS live demo), so let me know if you have any more comments or clarifications.

VIDEO REVIEW: Using Microsoft Teams Walkie Talkie with the Klein Valor Speaker Microphone

For some front line workers a walkie talkie is a necessity and having a physical mic can make using the Teams Walkie Talkie even more efficient and useful.  Below is my video review of the Klein Valor Speaker Microphone for Microsoft Teams.



Klein Valor Speaker Microphone for MS Teams

Pros

  • Makes using Teams Walkie Talkie very convenient, even if Teams app doesn't have the focus or the phone screen is powered off
  • Very rugged
  • Configuration is absolutely no fuss: just plug it into the Android audio/mic jack.
  • Microsoft Recommended. See: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/walkie-talkie

Cons

  • There is a bit of "talk permit tone" feedback (Teams on Android does this as well, but not as pronounced
  • No physical volume knob/buttons on device
  • no battery charge level indicator
  • battery seems to drain even without use
  • A charging cradle might be nice

https://kleinelectronics.com/valor-speaker-mic-for-3-5mm-pin-samsung/

$136 USD

Build Your Own Microsoft Teams Pager: 4G LTE, Compact, Rugged, Waterproof, Loud Alerting, Paging Beeper


NOTE: This device is not in any way approved by Microsoft or the mobile services mentioned.

The Requirement

Sometimes there is a need for a device who's sole job is to make sure a user gets an alert at all times. (including waking an on-duty individual during the night if necessary) This means as a minimum requirement this solution needs an loud audio alert that is NEVER inadvertently turned off and there are NO unintentional alerts.

The Challenge

For an organization that lives in Microsoft Teams, the solution seems obvious: Use Microsoft Teams Urgent Chat. The inability to assign a specific alert sound for very specific a Chat message (coming from a certain Contact, containing specific content, or only Urgent Messages, etc.) makes this tricky, if not impossible, to configure on a users primary MS Teams phone to achieve our goal of never inadvertently alerting.

NOTE: There seems like there should be some way to achieve this with some combination of DND, Notification configuration or a separate Teams user signed into Teams Android with different combination of notification settings, but every byzantine trail of notification combinations I've tried does not seem to deliver a reliable version of our requirements. If you know of a way, please let me know.

The Solution Overview

An alternative way to achieve our requirements is to:

  • have a dedicated mobile device to provide alerting and be our "pager"
  • sign in with a Teams user not likely to get Chat messages from unexpected contacts. (Something like pager1@contoso.com)
  • configure a loud notification sound for Teams Chat messages
  • Turn all other notifications on the device off (not just Teams, but ALL other notifications)
  • Now use MS Teams to Chat or Urgent Chat to this user to achieve the alert
    • Urgent Chat will re-alert every 2 minutes for 20 minutes or until alert is acknowledged.

Detailed Steps

What is a good device to be our Microsoft Teams "Pager"? The Unihertz Atom (available here) is a pretty interesting form factor and is ideal for the following reasons:

  • 4G LTE (national & international service)
  • Very Small (pager sized device at 2.45" display)
  • Rugged: Tough/Waterproof (IP68)
    • Comparable to emergency services pager build quality
  • Loud alert/ringer & vibrate
  • Android 9
  • Runs Microsoft Teams (with capacity to spare)
  • a belt clip accessory available separately 
The Unihertz Atom device shown below.


Detailed Steps to Configure Unihertz Atom Android Device & Teams

  1. Setup the Unihertz Atom (Android device)
    1. Settings > Duraspeed > Teams > "Allow apps to turn in background" = On
    2. Settings > Intelligent Assistance > App Blocker > Teams > [no restrictions]
    3. Settings > Sounds > Phone Ringtone = none (or as desired)
    4. Settings > Sounds > Default notification sound = none
    5. Settings > Sounds > Advanced > Dial pad, screen locking, charging, touch = off
  2. Get Data Service working
    1. Activate AT&T (or other 4G LTE service) with an authorized 4G phone to enabled 4G/LTE then move to this phone.
    2. Some services (in USA) are as low as $10 to $20 a month. See Redpocket.
  3. Setup Microsoft Teams
    1. Sign into Google Play Store and install Microsoft Teams
    2. sign into MS Teams with "pager" user
    3. Send "Pager-Alert-Long" to this MS Teams. "..." > Download.
    4. MS Teams > Notifications > General Activity > Uncheck everything but "Chats"
    5. MS Teams > Notifications > General Activity > Chats > Advanced > Sound > Add ringtone > Downloads (or location of ringer) > Pager-Alert-Long > OK.
Now send a Chat message to this Teams user to provide an alert.

A Few Images of Device In Action


Amazingly Microsoft Teams renders nearly perfectly on the Atom's tiny 2.4" screen.

The Teams Settings & presence screen.


Alert toast. (NOTE: no, it does not look like the "glamour" image for this blog. No landscape mode for Teams either.) Using the Pager-Alert-Long.ogg file you can download above, a chat notification will beep for 40 seconds or until you swipe down on the Android home screen (& view current notifications). Note the swiping down will not clear the Teams Urgent Message and it will alert again in 2 minutes (for 20minutes) until you look at the Chat message in Teams.


All of chat functionality available including compose message, voice messages, Urgent messages.


Yes, you can reply. But your replies will be short typing on a 2.4" screen. (but its a lot better than the best purpose built 4G pagers.) You CAN use Teams voice messages.


Yes, you can use this devices as a PTT Walkie Talkie. (I haven't been able to map the PTT button on the Unihertz Atom--If you figure it out, let me know.) 


And yes, Teams Apps work too. 

Now you have a Microsoft Teams pager (that competes, and in many ways surpasses, industry purpose built devices like TPL Birdy 4G pager) with the following features:

  • Alphanumeric
  • Receive/Send
  • Text Messages, Teams Voice Message responses
  • Auto Receipt/Acknowledgement
  • Urgent alerts keep alerting every 2 minutes for 20 minutes
  • Send Alerts/Message with familiar Microsoft Teams user interface
  • Send Alerts/Messages from Landis Attendant Console for MS Teams
  • Manager can see Receipts/Acknowledgement in MS Teams user interface
  • Manage device with Microsoft 365
  • Pager alert or set to any alert you wish
  • Unlimited historical messages
  • Ability to see if pager is online via presence indicator
  • Teams Apps
  • 2.45" touch color display 
  • Additional services: PTT/2way radio of WIFI/4G, SMS, Share location, etc.
  • Finger print/Face detection security

Ways to Send a chat/alert to the "pager"

There are several ways to send the chat/alert to the pager:
  • Microsoft Teams user interface
  • Microsoft Power automate or MS Graph API (Not Urgent Chat)
  • Landis Attendant Console for Microsoft Teams

First we'll look at Microsoft Teams Chat user interface.

Just select the pager user and (1) type the message. (2) Select how urgent this message is. 


(3) Send. (4) Then monitor that user the user gets the message. This will require that Pager Teams user have "Read Receipts" turned on.

You can also use Microsoft Power Automate to send a chat to a Microsoft Teams user. NOTE: At this time a flow cannot mark the message as "Urgent".

Also, last but not least, a shameless plug: The Landis Attendant Console for Microsoft Teams allows sending alerts to this type of solution with 1-click "Chat Call Back Reminder". When a caller requests a call back, just find the Pager contact and click "Chat Call Back Reminder" & send. Presto! ;-) 



Some ways this solution could be improved:
  • Use the PTT/definable button to toggle between vibrate+audio alert & vibrate only
  • Alert when device has no data service

If you can improve on this idea, please comment.


Sources:
40 second Pager Beep Alert for Android

How Microsoft Teams Meeting Push-to-Talk Works aka "Keyboard Shortcut to Unmute" and Gotchas

Yay,  Teams Meeting CTRL+Spacebar to unmute is GA. See Roadmap.

What Feature are we talking about?

First let's get straight that there are 2 completely different Microsoft Teams features being called Push-to-Talk (and I see a lot of news articles conflating them):

  1. The Teams Walkie Talkie App: Provide 2-way radio functionality in Teams. This is like having one of those good old, black, Motorola 2 way radios inside your Android phone and having Teams as Channels. (super cool, but not what we are talking about today.)
  2. Teams Meeting press CTRL+SPACEBAR feature: to temporarily unmute during a meeting

This article is talking about number 2.

Now How It Works

  1. The setting is in Settings > Privacy > Keyboard Short Cut to Unmute. (This is enabled by default)
  2. Get in a Teams meeting (or see below, any call) and mute yourself.
  3. Now pressing CTRL+Spacebar will temporarily unmute yourself while pressed.

Why People Want This (and Not Mute/Unmute)

Some people work in noisy environments. Many meetings are spent listening with only 1 10 second question or answer in the whole meeting. Can we have a very efficient way to temporarily allow themselves to speak? This is the reason for "Keyboard Shortcut to Unmute" aka Meeting PTT (push to talk). And Microsoft ain't beyond saying "If our competition is doing it, we had better be too!"

You could think of it as Mute/Unmute being oriented towards those spending a lot of time both speaking and not. PTT is for those meetings when you only talk for short periods.

Notes & Gotchas:

  • I notice that PTT/ctrl+spacebar works in regular telephone calls as well as meetings.
  • If you are not muted, ctrl+spacebar has no effect.
  • Ctrl + Spacebar only works with the Microsoft Teams app has the focus.
  • ctrl+shift+M does not work when ctrl+spacebar (meeting PTT) is enabled.
  • Be careful onscreen buttons are not selected when you hit ctrl+spacebar as spacebar "presses" a selected button. (for example: if "Video" or "Share" has the selection, ctrl+spacebar will press that action.)

How Stuff Looks

New Setting:


What is shown when you are unmuted:



Sources:
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/roadmap?filters=&searchterms=83419

Microsoft Introduces the Azure Communication Services (ACS): Twilio Competitor, Not a Native Microsoft Teams API & Comparison to Microsoft Teams Graph Communication API


 

In Feb 2020 I wrote a prescient article entitled "Where is MS & Microsoft Teams in the OnPrem to CPaaS Journey?" in which I explored where Microsoft was with a "Twilio-like API" for Microsoft Teams. At that time I estimated Microsoft is about 25% (looking back, perhaps a bit generous) of the way to a "Twilio-like API" for Microsoft Teams.

Well, today at Microsoft Ignite 2020 Microsoft has announced the Azure Communication Service, which is most definitely aimed at being a "Twilio-like API", but to accommodate no AAD requirement, it does not interface directly with Microsoft Teams. 

What is the Azure Communication Service?

The Microsoft Developer article describes it like this "Built on the same Microsoft 365 infrastructure that supports Microsoft Teams, ACS offers developers consumption-based use of those same enterprise-ready chat, SMS, video and WebRTC capabilities".

It is an communication platform as a service that provides apis to build your own communication enabled apps. This means for those developers wanting to build a SMS, IM, audio, video & desksharing app, developers don't need to build the low level communication components, they can just use the apis to utilize Microsoft's services.

What is the difference between the "Microsoft Graph Communication APIs" for Microsoft Teams and "Azure Communication Service"?

Here is a quick comparison, first Teams Graph Communications API | Azure Communication Service:

Calls automated with CommAPIs show up in MS Teams reports | Unrelated to MS Teams

Utilizes the MS Teams platform you already paid for | Consumption based, unrelated to MS Teams billing

Requires Teams/AD Users | Does not require AD Users

Integrated to MS Teams/Automated MS Teams calls/meetings | Separate systems from Teams/Could integrate via SBC/Federation? (appears like Microsoft "light up integration to Teams in Preview soon..."-CVP Scott Van Vliet source: https://youtu.be/49oshhgY6UQ?t=735 )

Increasingly complete server API & no client API | Server API's & Client API's

audio calls, video, PSTN | SMS/IM/audio/video/PSTN/

Pricing

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/communication-services/concepts/pricing#pricing-example-group-audiovideo-call-using-js-and-ios-client-libraries

What Modalities Does ACS Support?

Below are some of the communication methods supported by ACS per the current Docs page:

  • Chat
  • Telephony
  • SMS
  • Voice
  • Video

Our Experience Using the ACS Preview

Building a simple chat and video conferencing app with ACS is very simple. 

Summary

ACS looks to provide a very nice Microsoft alternative to Twilio and other CPaaS API options. The Server and Client API components are complete enough to create many interesting solutions today. It is not a replacement to create native Microsoft Teams solutions.

To learn more about the ACS, watch the session "Innovate with Azure Communication Services" from Microsoft Ignite 2020.


Sources:
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/communication-services/

Azure Communication Service API Docs: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/communication-services/

Ignite 2020 Microsoft Teams Developer Platform Article: https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/blogs/microsoft-teams-microsoft-graph-dev-platform-ignite-2020/

Pricing: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/communication-services/concepts/pricing#pricing-example-group-audiovideo-call-using-js-and-ios-client-libraries