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Reduce background noise in Microsoft Teams meetings with AI-based noise suppression

Published Dec 16 2020 08:00 AM 109K Views
Microsoft

Whether it be multiple meetings occurring in a small space, children playing loudly nearby, or construction noise outside of your home office, unwanted background noise can be really distracting in Teams meetings. We are excited to announce that users will have the ability to remove unwelcome background noise during their calls and meetings with our new AI-based noise suppression option.


Users can enable this helpful new feature by adjusting their device settings before their call or meeting and selecting "High" in the "Noise suppression" drop-down (note this feature is currently only supported in the Teams Windows desktop client). See this support article for details about how to turn it on and more here: https://aka.ms/noisesuppression.


Our new noise suppression feature works by analyzing an individual’s audio feed and uses specially trained deep neural networks to filter out noise and only retain speech. While traditional noise suppression algorithms can only address simple stationary noise sources such as a consistent fan noise, our AI-based approach learns the difference between speech and unnecessary noise and is able to suppress various non-stationary noises, such as keyboard typing or food wrapper crunching. With the increased work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, noises such as vacuuming, your child’s conflicting school lesson or kitchen noises have become more common but are effectively removed by our new AI-based noise suppression, exemplified in the video below.

 

The AI-based noise suppression relies on machine learning (ML) to learn the difference between clean speech and noise. The key is to train the ML model on a representative dataset to ensure it works in all situations our Teams customers are experiencing. There needs to be enough diversity in the data set in terms of the clean speech, the noise types, and the environments from which our customers are joining online meetings.


To achieve this dataset diversity, we have created a large dataset with approximately 760 hours of clean speech data and 180 hours of noise data. To comply with Microsoft’s strict privacy standards, we ensured that no customer data is being collected for this data set. Instead, we either used publicly available data or crowdsourcing to collect specific scenarios. For clean speech we ensured that we had a balance of female and male speech and we collected data from 10+ languages which also include tonal languages to ensure that our model will not change the meaning of a sentence by distorting the tone of the words. For the noise data we included 150 noise types to ensure we cover diverse scenarios that our customers may run into from keyboard typing to toilet flushing or snoring. Another important aspect was to include emotions in our clean speech so that expressions like laughter or crying are not suppressed. The characteristics of the environment from which our customers are joining their online Teams meetings has a strong impact on the speech signal as well. To capture that diversity, we trained our model with data from more than 3,000 real room environments and more than 115,000 synthetically created rooms.


Since we use deep learning it is important to have a powerful model training infrastructure. We use Microsoft Azure to allow our team to develop improved versions of our ML model. Another challenge is that the extraction of original clean speech from the noise needs to be done in a way that the human ear perceives as natural and pleasant. Since there are no objective metrics which are highly correlated to human perception, we developed a framework which allowed us to send the processed audio samples to crowdsourcing vendors where human listeners rated their audio quality on a one to five-star scale to produce mean opinion scores (MOS). With these human ratings we were able to develop a new perceptual metric which together with the subjective human ratings allowed us to make fast progress on improving the quality of our deep learning models.


To advance the research in this field we have also open-sourced our dataset and the perceptual quality crowdsourcing framework. This has been the basis of two competitions we hosted as part of the Interspeech 2020 and ICASSP 2021 conferences as outlined here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/dns-challenge/home/


Finally, we ensured that our deep learning model could run efficiently on the Teams client in real-time. By optimizing for human perception, we were able to achieve a good trade-off between quality and complexity which ensures that most Windows devices our customers are using can take advantage of our AI-based noise suppression. Our team is currently working on bringing this feature also to our Mac and mobile platforms.


AI based noise suppression is an example of how our deep learning technology has a profound impact on our customer’s quality of experience.

 

Learn more in the second part of our series about getting the most from your meetings and calls with Microsoft Teams: Re-setting the bar for meeting and call quality

31 Comments
Occasional Visitor

Is this feature applicable for the calls from mobile app as well?.

Occasional Contributor

I checked. I think its only for desktop app. I don't find the option in mobile app swell. But I am not sure of it.

 

Occasional Visitor

Any timeline for when this will be available for Mac? Thx.

Deleted
Not applicable

I can't find this option in my ms team. Why?

Senior Member

Noise reduction is not present in the Devices settings in Teams Desktop app, please note why.

Regular Visitor

I downloaded latest version of desktop app - 1.3.00.28779 (64-bit) on 18th Jan (today) and I still don't see the option to "Noise Suppression". My system processor does have AVX2 instructions. Don't see any step or article which says to enable at tenant level by admin though. Hope that this is not connected to the type of subscription purchased!!

Senior Member

Is background noise suppression added at part of the test call process? I hope so, then I can tell if my background noise is filtered out before a live call. It doesn't seem to. I have been typing using a speakerphone during a test call and it doesn't seem to make a difference.

Senior Member

@imsh3rlock3d I think you will find it in "settings", "devices" 

Tim_Banting_0-1610988514432.png

 

Regular Visitor

@Tim_Banting yeah, all those preliminary checks are done which are given in Microsoft support article. I have verified that hardware and software are all fine.

 

Just wondering if this option of "Noise Suppression" comes up only if one has connected a USB headset certified for Teams? I have headset with 3.5 mm jack and not USB.. If so, then the MS article needs to be updated accordingly for the hardware dependency

 

Teams settings in my case:

 

imsh3rlock3d_0-1610989356472.png

 

 

Senior Member

imsh3rlock3d I think it must be USB. I have a very non-standard condenser mic that I bought cheaply from Amazon. It's by far the best solution for me and with noise reduction set to high, I can' detect any background noises from things like my keyboard etc. (I tested using "meet now" and had a meeting by myself and listened to the playback in Streams.)

Microsoft

@imsh3rlock3d you need to have at least version 30866 for this feature. You may want to check with your system admin on why you don't have the latest Teams client version. 

Senior Member

Regarding Teams Versioning, I've learned from an MS support tech today that Teams utilizes the ring cycle so devices will never be on a 'set schedule' nor can they be really 'forced' to update. It is similar to mobile OS updates.

 

You could attempt to enable the Public Preview policy in Teams Admin Center: update the global policy in Teams -> Update Policy or create a custom and apply it to a user for testing.

Regular Visitor

@robertaichner Thanks for the version information. I don't see why that is not installed on my machine even after downloading from - https://teams.microsoft.com/download link. Besides this is standalone home machine not connected to any domain. Hence there is no restriction and I am the only one using this as an admin. The same is the behavior in other machine I installed Teams the other day. It doesn't have the version you mentioned. How can I download that version and build on my system, which you are suggesting?

 

@kjones10 I am aware of ring update policy and am finding it hard to believe that you are suggesting me to enable public preview policy in Teams admin center when this feature is rolled out as general availability with published MS article - https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/reduce-background-noise-in-teams-meetings-1a9c6819-137d-4... . If versioning is the only play here, then @robertaichner can help here update the article after checking with internal folks, right?

 

Thanks for the reply folks until now!

Regular Visitor

ok, so here is how the option of "Noise Suppression" came up on my device.

 

1. First enable Developer preview as below:

 

imsh3rlock3d_0-1611129490767.png

 

2. It automatically closes and reopens Teams app.

3. Relogin and force check the updates and wait for 3-5 minutes, even if it says that you have latest version installed.

4. As per @robertaichner , Teams build should be above 30866 for this feature to be available.

5. Soon you should see message saying "Refresh Teams now" as it has installed new build.

6. Once clicked on it, it will relaunch Teams app and then you can check for "Noise Suppression" under Settings > Devices.

 

I am currently on build 34662 build. I have turned off the Developer preview (to avoid product instability with any other new feature I am not aware of) and still the option of "Noise Suppression" remains.

 

Regular Visitor

What is the timeline on releasing this to Mac users? I need the ability to turn off noise suppression for producing a Teams live event. Thanks!

Microsoft

@dharder we are working on the Mac version but currently don't yet have any timeline to share.

Occasional Visitor

Noise reduction was not available even after updating team to the latest version.  I uninstalled / rebooted / installed  and now it works

 

/Alex

Occasional Visitor

Hello -

 

Is there a way to apply this as a global policy to all users?  We really like this change in testing but it appears to roll back on some users and we would like to either A. create a registry entry or B. a GPO to apply to all Teams users.

 

-Kathy

Microsoft

@kmoench unfortunately there is no global policy which can be applied to all users. The UI setting should not roll back. We are also currently experimenting to enable ML-based noise suppression by default for people with capable devices who keep the UI setting in "Auto (Default)". 

Occasional Contributor

Thanks Robert and kmoench.  Our organization is also consistently experiencing a lot of echo and noise problems in parts of Teams.

 

I've spot-checked a lot of these calls with Call Analytics https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/MicrosoftTeams/use-call-analytics-to-troubleshoot-poor-call-quality 
and it shows all network connections in these calls as good.

 

These same users aren't having problems on their computers with Zoom -- obviously using same hardware, network connections.

It'd be good for MS and good for us if Teams could be as robust and usable as Zoom.

Frequent Visitor

Hi @robertaichner , any update on Teams noise suppression for mac? Thanks.

New Contributor

Waiting here too...the background noise is problematic.

Visitor

I second @JerryRoselada 's ask for @robertaichner - Any update on when the Mac version of Team's noise suppression will be ready?  With all the additional work from home challenges, this would be a great feature to have..

Senior Member

I second @ed. Several employees in our org have noticeable echo in Teams meetings which do not exist in Zoom. This is pushing many of our users away from Teams and over to Zoom.

Microsoft

@Ryan Oden@PeteHoots@Sherry_Amelse, @JerryRoselada we have released the feature last week on the Mac public preview build and it will roll out to the general ring over the next few weeks. Thank you for your patience! Our support article has been updated and also has a link on how to get the public preview build. https://aka.ms/noisesuppression/ 

Occasional Contributor

We have set up a Lenovo HUB 500 Teams Room in our auditorium to simplify running Live Events, but I would like to reduce the noise suppression to get a more "rich" audio experience that includes auditorium audience reactions, how do I do this in Teams Rooms; these settings are not available there?

Contributor

@Ivar Engen 
Pls note, that a built in Audio DSP might not be optimized for "auditorium" sized rooms AT ALL.
Most likely the best way is to bring in a certifed external DSP including an audio guy knowing what to do with it.

Then you can have as many microphones as you like or need incl. audience and/or ambience microphones, each with its dedicated AEC/DSP. Respectable brands are BIAMP or QSC for example. They are hooked to the Lenovo Hub via USB, so nothing fancy on the Teams side to do.

Feel free to PM me direct for any more details.

Microsoft

@Ivar Engen the Teams Rooms are not yet running the ML-based noise suppression and we are currently working on adding that functionality. So noise suppression shouldn't filter out audience reactions. As @Harald_Steindl pointed out your issue may be that the microphones are too far from the audience?

Occasional Contributor

Hi Robert, thanks for your answer, I guess this means I have to look elsewhere for the poor audio experience. For the record, we are not using the MTR built-in microphone; the room is equipped with Cisco equipment including a "Cisco TelePresence Ceiling Microphone" and the MTR is capturing both video and audio from a HDMI cable using Magewell HDMI -> USB device.

Contributor

@Ivar EngenIt is very well woth to investigate what signal actually is on the HDMI. If this is the signal going to the local monitor, its no wonder that there are no local mics in the signal. Matter of fact, there should only be the remote signal being sent to the local loudspeakers.
Phrased differently: Are you sure, that the HDMI carries all the needed (mic) signals?

 

@robertaichner 
For heavens sake pls make the ML noise reduction switchable when introducing it on the MTR, pls. ;)
Teams is used in many creative ways nowadays. Way, way off the usual track of a classical meeting room.
While testing different platforms (Teams and others) and their various noise reduction systems, we discovered some odd artifacts when being used in unexpected (for lack of a better word) spaces. Like when used in really big and reverberant spaces and less than optimal mic-ing. Then the DSP/AEC reaches its limits. The results were not brillant but workable. However as soon as the noise-reduction wizards were introduced, voice got worse as in "artificial" or "slightly robotic".  This was much more noticeable/annoying than the suboptimal audio.
Long story short: What might be perfect in certain applications dont go any good in others.
Thanks for consideration.

Microsoft

@Harald_Steindl yes there is a plan to allow turning on/off the ML-based noise suppression likely through an admin setting.

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‎Feb 04 2021 07:25 AM
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