When a feature works, chances are others will co-opt it. Last year, Microsoft followed in Zoom's footsteps by adding virtual backgrounds to its Teams app. As a testament to the feature's popularity, Google did the same by bringing the option to Education users on Google Meet. With competition mounting, Zoom has introduced Snapchat-style filters and a virtual receptionist in order to keep evolving. But now it's borrowing from its rivals with the launch of "Immersive View," a new type of virtual background that assembles video participants together in one scene. Zoom says the feature can evoke the feeling of being in a classroom or boardroom, with everyone arranged in front of the same backdrop.
In that sense, it could offer a less distracting setup compared to the traditional gallery view, by replacing the grid format for a shared background that places participants next to each other. To keep things fun, users can upload their own virtual backgrounds or use the scenes provided by Zoom. If you're getting a feeling of déjà vu, it's because last summer Microsoft Teams offered something similar with Together Mode. The feature relied on AI to pull your image and place it together with your co-workers in a virtual space, like an auditorium. According to Microsoft, the aim was to provide a cohesive layout for larger meetings to overcome "video fatigue" in the remote working era.
Zoom's new feature can host up to 25 people in a scene, with additional participants displayed in a thumbnail strip. Hosts wield the power to automatically or manually place users into a virtual background of their choosing and can also move people around and resize them. In the case of a webinar, attendees can view the hosts and participants in the scene. Recordings, meanwhile, will currently just revert to the gallery or speaker view layout, depending on which was originally set.