Google rolls out Group Video Calls & Virtual Backgrounds for Meet & Duo

Video calling apps are in vogue due to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders. Work and socialisation have moved online. New video calling apps are sprouting, old ones are gaining popularity and cool ones are offering exciting new features. Google has a mini-army of video calling apps - Duo, Hangout and Meet. Google recently added a handful of new features to Duo and Meet apps. Let’s check them out.

Make group video calls on smart displays

Smart displays are an upgrade on smart speakers. They are basically smart speakers with a screen. Their popularity has surged due to the pandemic. Amazon and Google are the two leading players of the smart display game.

Google is about to edge out Amazon with its rollout of group video calls on its Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max along with third-party smart screens like Lenovo’s Smart Display and the JBL Link View. The feature is provided via Duo and Meet apps. In fact, this marks the debut of Meet on smart screens. To place a group video call, summon Assistant, “make a group call on Duo” or “make a group call on Meet”. Duo has an upper limit of 32 people and Meet supports up to 100 participants.

For Duo group video calls, groups have to be first created on the Duo mobile app. After that, you can ask Assistant to start any particular group video call. Meet works differently. You can join existing calls by typing in the room code or entering scheduled meetings using calendar entries. Assistant can also be used, “Hey Google, join my next meeting”. Assistant support is only available to personal accounts. Room codes have to be entered manually using the smart screen.

Speed dial, showcased at the annual CES, is also available now. Once again, ask Assistant, “Call Mom/Sister/Father/Person Name” and you’ll be connected.

Virtual backgrounds & moderator features on Meet

Teachers and students have been using Google Meet for online classes. In fact, Google has two special education-related plans - G Suite for Education and G Suite Enterprise for Education. Users enrolled in either plan will get access to new features.

Both sets of users can now blur or change their backgrounds with presets or images. In addition to this, a handful of other moderator features will come as a respite to teachers and administrators. Moderators can now end meeting for all participants. They can also mute all participants at once, disable in-meeting chats and restrict screen sharing. ‘Knocks’ are requests to join meetings. Kicked out participants will no longer be able to ‘Knock’. Google has also blocked anonymous attendees by default. Moderators can disable this setting to allow anonymous attendees. Meet now has a larger tiled view that can display up to 49 participants at once. A hand-raising button and an integrated collaborative whiteboard have also been added. Users can now also see closed captions in additional languages.

Download the latest Google Duo and Meet apps here:

Jim has a bachelor in Philosophy of Science from the University of Leeds. When he is not writing tech articles he enjoys photography 📷 and traveling 🚂.