Mostly, services like FaceTime and Skype promise to provide a reasonably clear video chat with friends, relatives or business associates. But Skype is now touting its new ability to blur.
On its blog, Microsoft-owned Skype introduced what it calls “background blur,” which is designed to do just that. If you’ve got a kitchen mess going on and you have to talk to your mom, the new blur functions will at least obscure the fine details of the disaster zone around you.
That’s similar to the blur Microsoft Team provides users of its chat-based feature in Office 365. The Team was introduced late in 2016, and the blur feature was added later, allowing the boss to address the troops without their seeing the mess on the desk behind her.
“Background blur in Skype and Teams uses artificial intelligence (AI)—trained in human form detection—to keep you in focus during your call,” the blog says. “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.”
To be clear, nothing is absolute.
In announcing the blur function, the Microsoft Team, has warned, “Background blurring might not prevent sensitive information from being visible to other meeting participants.” LIkewise, the announcement of the new Skype obfuscator notes, in italics, *We do our best to make sure that your background is always blurred, but we cannot guarantee that your background will always be blurred.”
Background blurring in digital still photography has come to be known as “bokeh,” apparently taken from the Japanese word for “haze” and pronounced close to “bouquet.” The effect had been attainable by conventional cameras previously, but has become a talked-about feature in Apple's Portrait Mode found on the iPhone X, XS, XS Max and XR iPhones, and now a growing number of other brands.
For now, the blurring effect is only available on Skype applications using laptops or desktops, and specifically on Skype (version 8) on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Skype for Windows 10 (version 14)
Even with that limitation, that could give it a competitive edge up on FaceTime and other video chat apps available from Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. They still don’t blur.
As an alternative, you also could consider tidying up.