Skype Gains Background Blurring Feature

Skype is getting a new screen-blurring feature this week. Users of Microsoft's video and voice calling service can now choose to blur the background on video calls if the scene behind them is something they'd rather not share.

The idea behind the feature is to save the user's blushes because of the messy room they're skyping from, or to obscure a business plan on a whiteboard behind them, for instance.
Background blur in Skype and Teams uses artificial intelligence (AI)—trained in human form detection—to keep you in focus during your call. This technology is also trained to detect your hair, hands, and arms, making a call with background blur just as relaxed and easy as a regular video call.
Background blur in Skype is similar to background blur in Microsoft Teams, according to the software giant. The results are somewhat akin to the "bokeh" effect most commonly seen in Portrait photos on iPhone, but in this case in a live video stream.


The feature is rolling out on desktops, mobile, and web, and can be enabled in Skype's settings or by using the video call button.

Tag: Skype

This article, "Skype Gains Background Blurring Feature" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Skype Calling Features Coming to Alexa Devices Later This Year

Microsoft has revealed that Skype is coming to Alexa devices. The partnership between Microsoft and Amazon means that owners of devices in Amazon's Echo range will soon be able to make outgoing Skype voice and video calls, accept incoming Skype calls, and also make SkypeOut calls to most phone numbers around the world.


Announcing the upcoming feature in a blog post, Microsoft said device owners will be able to say something like "Alexa, call Jimmy on Skype," or if Jimmy is calling you on Skype, they'll be able to say, "Alexa, answer."

This isn't the first time Amazon and Microsoft has seen fit to merge existing products and services. The two companies partnered on Alexa and Cortana integration last year.
"Since then, we've added Alexa integration on Xbox and are continuing to work together to bring the best of Skype and Alexa together to enable intelligent communications for our users," said Gaurav Sareen, corporate vice president for Microsoft. "We're excited to continue bringing the best of Microsoft and Amazon together."
Skype calling on Alexa will begin rolling out later this year.


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Skype Introduces Call Recording Feature for Mac and iOS

Microsoft today announced that it has added call recording functionality to the latest version of Skype available on Mac and iOS.

Skype says that the new call recording feature is cloud-based, with Skype informing every participant in a given call that a call is being recorded.


Call recording for video chats includes everyone's video and screens that are shared during the call, with the call available to be saved and shared for the next 30 days. There is no way to record the audio portion of a video chat without also recording the video.

On both mobile and desktop, call recording can be initiated by clicking or tapping on the "+" icon at the bottom of the screen and then selecting "Start recording." Once call recording has been initiated, participants will see a mobile banner letting them know that a recording is in progress.

Call recording is available in the current version of Skype, which can be downloaded from the Skype website on the Mac or the App Store on iOS. [Direct Link]


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Skype Redesign Ditches Snapchat-Like Highlights Feature to Focus on ‘Simplicity’

Microsoft is to simplify the user experience of its Skype mobile and desktop apps, with the aim of returning the platform's focus to core services like calling and messaging.

In announcing the decision in a blog post, Microsoft acknowledged that the Snapchat-style redesign it introduced last year "didn't resonate with a majority of users" and had "overcomplicated" the platform, and said it hoped the new changes would make the service faster to learn and easier to use.


As a result, the Highlights and Capture features are being removed from the mobile app, leaving options for Chats, Calls, and Contacts at the bottom of the interface. Microsoft says users can download any Highlights they have posted in Skype until September 30, 2018.

Meanwhile over on desktop, buttons for Chats, Calls, Contacts, and Notifications are being moved to the top left of the application window, which should make more sense for veteran Skype users. In addition, contacts are being "updated for simplicity" to make them easier to discover.


Visually, Microsoft says it has "toned down" the range of the gradients available in the light and dark themes, and it's also reintroducing the simplified Skype "Classic" blue theme, with subtle adjustments for contrast and readability.

Lastly, some decorative elements have been removed from the Skype interface to provide users with "a more elegant experience" that brings the focus back to content.

"This is only the beginning and you can expect many more updates over the next several months as we continue to simplify and improve the core experiences around calling, chat, and contacts," said Skype design director Peter Skillman. "While we have plenty of work left to do, we hope you find these changes simplify your experience and bring you closer to those who matter."


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Microsoft Plans to Keep Skype Classic Available ‘for Some Time’ Following User Backlash

Microsoft last month announced plans to shut down Skype 7, aka Skype Classic, on PCs and Macs in September, with the company encouraging customers to instead upgrade to the latest version of Skype, Skype 8.

Skype 8, first introduced last year, features a total design overhaul that has not been popular with some customers, which led some Skype users to be unhappy with Microsoft's announcement.


As of today, as pointed out by Windows blog Thurrott, Microsoft has changed its mind following user feedback. In a forum post, the Skype team says that support for Skype 7 will not end in September, with the end of life date extended to an unknown time.
UPDATE: Based on customer feedback, we are extending support for Skype 7 (Skype classic) for some time. Our customers can continue to use Skype classic until then.
It is not clear how long "some time" will be, but customers who prefer the design of Skype 7 can continue using that version of Skype instead of upgrading to Skype 8.

The Skype team also said that it is listening to customer comments and plans to introduce features customers have requested into Skype 8. Classic Skype for Mac can be downloaded directly from Microsoft, as can Skype 8.


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Microsoft Launches Skype 8.0 for Mac and Windows

Microsoft today announced the official launch of Skype 8.0, the latest version of Skype that replaces the previous version, Skype 7.0, now known as Skype classic. According to Microsoft, Skype 8.0 is its "most powerful, intuitive, and flexible" version of Skype to date.

Skype 8.0 includes free HD video and screensharing calls with up to 24 people, reaction options for messages in conversations and @mentions to get someone's attention in a group chat, a chat media gallery for viewing photos and links, customizable themes, a notification panel, and options to share photos, videos, and files over Skype that are up to 300MB in size.


Details and more information on the new features in Skype 8.0 are available on the Skype website, which is also where the new software can be downloaded.

In the future, Microsoft plans to add additional features that include read receipts, private conversations with end-to-end encryption, call recording, profile invites, and group links for initiating a call with multiple people. Skype 8.0 features are also rolling out on the iPad starting today.

Microsoft is encouraging all Skype users to update to the new 8.0 version of the software as earlier versions of Skype will stop working on September 1, 2018. Microsoft says it is discontinuing older versions of Skype in order to provide the best possible Skype experience with no quality or reliability issues.


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End-to-End Encryption Comes to Skype Through Signal Partnership

Microsoft is testing a new "Private Conversations" feature in Skype, which is being introduced through a partnership with Signal.

Skype is using the Signal Protocol for the feature, allowing users to take advantage of strong end-to-end encryption for more secure communications.


Private Conversations are available for one-on-one conversations on Skype, with users able to initiate a private conversation by tapping on the "+" icon and then selecting "New Private Conversation." Once a conversation is initiated, it will be available only on the specific device where it was started.

Microsoft says Private Conversations offer several unique features:

  • A Private Conversation will have a lock icon next to your contact's name.

  • Preview messages from Private Conversations will not show in Chats or notifications.

  • Private Conversation capabilities are limited. You cannot edit a message or forward a file. From the chat window, only emoticons, files and audio messages are available to send.

  • Private Conversations are specific to a device. A new invitation must be sent and accepted, to change to another device.


Private Conversations are available today in a preview capacity for Skype Insiders, Microsoft's beta testing program for Skype.


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Skype, Tidal, VLC, Feedly and Other Apps Optimized for iPhone X

A handful of popular apps have been optimized for the iPhone X over the past few days. We've rounded up some of the notable ones below.


Each of these apps now support the iPhone X's new screen size, rather than having a letterboxed design with black bars at the top and bottom.
  • Skype
  • VLC
  • Tidal
  • Feedly
  • LINE
  • Viber
  • PlayStation Vue
  • Bank of America
If you have an iPhone X and use any of these apps, check the App Store's Updates tab to ensure you have the latest version installed.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Buyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)

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Apple Has Removed Skype From App Store in China to Comply With Local Law

Microsoft has confirmed that Skype has been "temporarily removed" from the App Store on iPhone and iPad, according to a statement given to The New York Times.

Apple told The New York Times that it was forced to remove a number of voice and video calling apps from the App Store in China to comply with laws in the country.
We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.
Skype has been unavailable on the App Store since at least late October, according to users on Twitter and other websites. The service appears to function normally still for users who have already installed the app.

Skype is the latest victim of China's strict internet filters, colloquially known as the Great Firewall. Earlier this year, Apple was forced to remove many VPN apps from the App Store in China due to regulations, while other apps affected in the past or present include WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter.

Microsoft wouldn't comment on why Skype is also unavailable on at least a few major third-party Android app stores. Many of Google's services, including Gmail and YouTube, have been blocked in China for several years.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Skype Launches Redesigned Desktop App With Cross-Device Functionality Between iOS and macOS

After first redesigning its iOS app and previewing a new update for Macs and desktop computers earlier this year, Microsoft has announced that its new Skype desktop software is launching today. The next-generation Skype desktop software is built to emulate the redesigned mobile application, which launched in June with an emphasis on media sharing and social networking features, although the iOS app's Snapchat-like "Highlights" feature isn't on Mac at this time.


The new Skype Mac app connects across devices to the iOS app, and includes customizable themes, an organizable chat list, and cloud-based file sharing. A new "notification panel" lets users catch up on missed messages in one place -- including reactions, @mentions, and quotes -- and you can jump directly to these notifications by clicking on them.


A new chat media gallery has been implemented as a place users can quickly find shared content including media, links, and files. Add-ins can also be introduced into each chat, ranging from GIF-based applications to event scheduling, sending money, video sharing, and more.


When in a video chat or a text conversation, users can send reactions to express how they're feeling, and set status updates to let friends know when they aren't available. In total, Skype said that the goal for the new update is to help its users increase personal and professional productivity, while also unifying the Skype ecosystem across devices.

To download the new features, Skype said that anyone with automatic updates enabled on Mac, Windows 10 November Update (2016) and lower, Windows 8, Windows 7, or Linux will receive the update as it begins rolling out today. To download it manually, users can visit Skype.com.

Tag: Skype

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