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Now That You Work from Home, You’ll Need a Way to Snack Safely During Video Calls

Now that almost everyone is working from home to stamp out the spread of COVID-19, we must reckon with a major problem with video conference calls: people who don’t remember to turn off their microphones. Whether it’s keyboard clacking, a lawnmower outside, your screaming cat, or munching on a bag of Doritos, everyone can hear it—all of it.

But Microsoft has a new solution that will let you make all the noise you want without silencing your microphone. The company has demonstrated a new feature for its Teams video conferencing tool that will use artificial intelligence to identify sounds that aren’t your voice and filter them out. So yes, that means you’ll be safe to snack away.

Microsoft’s “real-time noise suppression” will be available later this year. It’s just one of several new features for distraction-less video chatting. Microsoft has also shown off a feature to blur out the background of a video chat and add live captioning, à la YouTube.

In the meantime, here are more smart, simple tips for holding better video conferences until we’re all able to go back to the office.

1. Set up a stable and secure internet connection.

The last thing you want during a video conference is a laggy connection that disrupts your audio and visuals, creating a pixelated mess. To set up a stable connection every time, use an Ethernet cable. If you have a newer laptop, there’s a pretty good chance you don’t have a native Ethernet port, but you can purchase a dongle on Amazon that will adapt your Ethernet cable to the ports you do have.

2. Turn off applications and stop downloads.

Even if you have a great internet connection, running a bunch of programs that heavily draw on your Central Processing Unit (CPU) can break up the quality of your call. Turn off downloads and close out of as many applications as you can.

3. Consider upgrading your equipment.

Your laptop’s built-in webcam, mic, and speakers probably perform just fine (be sure to test them before your big call), but if you want to impress, consider investing in an external microphone or webcam for better quality.

4. Step up your lighting.

Without the right lighting, your audience could be left in the dark–literally. Natural light is best, but if your home’s windows aren’t conducive to that kind of setup, you can use artificial lighting. Fluorescent lights are best, but be sure not to use any overpowering bulbs. If the lighting is too bright, try backing away from the source a bit (but watch out for shadows).

5. Perfect your camera frame.

Take it from us: You don’t want to be the person whose nostrils are on full display throughout an hour-long meeting. So make sure your camera is at about eye level, and sit up so only your midsection and up are in the frame. If you’re positioned too high, your colleagues will be looking down on you. If you’re too low, you’ll look like the girl from The Blair Witch Project.

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