Author Archives: Dave Citron

New ways we’re making Meet calls easier (and more fun)

Almost exactly one year ago, in an effort to help everyone stay connected safely as the pandemic was taking hold, we announced that we were making Google Meet free for everyone. Since then, Meet has helped millions of people connect around the world. While it’s been hard for all of us to remain apart this past year, I’ve been proud to work on a product that’s let so many of us come together.

Helping everyone safely connect and collaborate is what drives us to continue improving Meet — from introducing features that make video calls more inclusive, such as automated live captions in five languages, to controls that create a safer and more dynamic learning environment for educators and students, to new mobile capabilities that promote a more inclusive meeting experience. Today, we’re announcing even more ways that Meet will continue providing you with secure, reliable and engaging meetings, starting with a refreshed look on the web and helpful features built with the latest in artificial intelligence.

A new design that makes it easier to present and engage with others

A presentation being unpinned to view all participants in a 12-person video meeting.

Unpin to make the presentation tile smaller and view all participants.

Starting next month, when viewing and sharing content with any group of people, you’ll have more space to see the content and others’ video feeds through our refreshed new look and improved ability to pin and unpin content. In the coming months, you will be able to pin multiple tiles to customize what you focus on. For example, you can highlight a presentation and the speaker, or multiple speakers at the same time. Participants’ names will always be visible, so you can quickly see who’s who, and better engage with everyone on the call. 

Two speakers pinned during a 16-tile video meeting.

Highlight different speakers and tiles for a better experience.

People have told us they concentrate better and often feel less tired when they don’t see themselves while talking. So we’re making it possible to resize, reposition or hide your own video feed. When doing so, you can use the freed-up space to see even more people on the call.

A participant minimizing their video feed in a 13-person group call.

Minimize your own video feed from view.

High-quality and reliable meetings on any device

We’re continuously investing in new ways to improve your audio and video experience in Meet. To support video calls when you’re on the go, we’re launching Data Saver this month. This feature limits data usage on mobile networks to allow you and the person you’re calling to save on data costs, which is especially important in countries where data costs can be high, like India, Indonesia and Brazil. 


Last year, we introduced low-light mode for Meet on mobile, using artificial intelligence to automatically adjust your video to make you more visible if you’re in a dark environment. Having too much light behind you — such as a window on a sunny day — can also be challenging for many cameras. Now, Google Meet on the web automatically detects when a user appears underexposed and enhances the brightness to improve their visibility. Light adjustment will be rolling out to Meet users everywhere in the coming weeks.
A person in the Green room of Google Meet where their video is brightened by the new Light adjustment feature.

Automatically enhance brightness and improve visibility. 

In addition, we’re introducing another feature powered by AI called Autozoom, which helps others see you more clearly by zooming in and positioning you squarely in front of your camera. Autozoom will be available to Google Workspace (paid) subscribers in the coming months. 

Fun new backgrounds on mobile and web 

Last month, we started rolling out background replace, Q&A and Polls for Meet to Android and iOS devices. In the coming weeks, we’re adding the ability to replace your background with a video. Video background replacement can help you maintain privacy for what’s behind you while also making your video calls more fun. There will initially be three options to choose from: a classroom, a party and a forest, with more on the way soon.

A person video calling using Google Meet with an animated background featuring cartoon characters dancing under a disco ball.

Use a video background to make calls more fun.

When we introduced a free version of Google Meet to the world a year ago, none of us knew just how much we’d come to rely on virtual meetings and gatherings to keep us connected to friends, family, colleagues and classmates. We’re grateful for all the stories and feedback our users and customers have shared along the way, helping us make Google Meet more engaging for everyone. Looking ahead, we’re excited to continue improving the Meet experience to further help in all the ways people connect, collaborate and celebrate.

Google Meet and Duo help you share moments that matter

Without a doubt, 2020 was the year of video calling. And for us, that meant making sure every student, team, and family could jump on a call from any device and have a reliable, safe experience. Google Duo and Google Meet hosted over one trillion minutes of video calls globally. For perspective, that’s equal to more than 18 billion hour-long virtual workouts in a single year! 

Here’s a recap of what we’ve done so far.

Productive and engaging meetings at home, work, and school 

A Google Meet meeting with a slide presentation about broccoli and baby carrots.

In 2020, Meet was put to the test. Our team had to really think through how virtual meetings could bring the key part of what in-person meetings provide: human connection. We launched new features like 49-tile layout, noise cancellation, background blur, and low-light mode plus live captions in five languages to help everyone follow along on the call. 

Earlier this year, we made Meet free for everyone. We also announced that with your Gmail account, Meet calls are unlimited through March 31, 2021 so that families can enjoy their holiday traditions without interruptions. Speaking of Gmail, we added a Meet tab in Gmail, so that with one tap, people can jump from an email to a video call. We also brought Meet to Nest Hub Max and Chromecast to help people get up, move around, and have hands-free calls at home. 

In large group settings like team all-hands or a classroom, it gets harder for people to speak up and to engage everyone on the call. With Meet, participants can use Q&A and hand raising tools, polls and breakout rooms. Organizations and moderators have more control too, keeping their meetings and participants safe, including advanced anti-abuse features, that allow for an enjoyable, safe experience for all. And in 2021, as many companies evaluate a flexible working model, we’ve designed Meet to work with our Series One hardware kits, created to deliver inclusive audio and video clarity that makes you feel like you're all together. So whether you're a Google Workspace subscriber relying on Meet's enterprise-grade functionality, or using Meet’s free version to safely connect with others near and far, Meet has you covered.

Fun experiences in your video calls

A Google Duo video call using holiday reindeer effects.

Being helpful means being there for the moments big and small. Though the pandemic kept me physically apart from many family members, I felt like they were with me and my family through virtual dinners, holidays like Thanksgiving, and even school band practices with Google Duo. At the end of the day, Google Duo makes it simple to go from texting each other to getting right on a video call.  In a year of virtual get-togethers, Google Duo was there to help make video calls more fun: doodle on video calls, magically transform into an astronaut or a cat, and spread laughs and cheer this holiday season with our wide portfolio of AR effects that change based on your facial expressions and move with you around the screen. And with Moments, you can capture the fun (and the embarrassing moments!) to relive the memory afterwards. 

With so many families having to work on the frontlines, our team was focused on ensuring calls could be connected with the highest quality even in low bandwidth connections. Google Duo is available on Android, iOS, tablets, computers, Android TV, smart speakers and smart displays.

Google Meet and Google Duo were built with an emphasis on privacy and security, to keep your calls and meetings safe and your information private. 

We hope that our work so far continues to help people stay in touch during this holiday season, and we’re looking forward to connecting more families, friends, students, teachers and teams in 2021 and beyond. 

Four new Google Duo features to help you stay connected

For the past few weeks, even though I haven’t seen many of my loved ones in person, we’re still keeping in touch. Daily catch-ups with mom, weekend happy hours with friends, a birthday party with people who live all over the country. And it's all happening on Google Duo, our video calling product. That's the case for many people these days–in fact, every week, over 10 million new people are signing up for Duo, and in many countries, call minutes have increased by more than ten-fold. Here are a few new features to help you feel close to friends and family even when you’re apart.

Make secure, reliable calls

Private, high quality video calling is critical when you can’t be together in person. Duo is end to end encrypted, and we’re constantly making optimizations to ensure your video calling experience is clear and uninterrupted. Duo already uses AI to reduce audio interruptions, and in the coming week, we’re rolling out a new video codec technology to improve video call quality and reliability, even on very low bandwidth connections.
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Side by side comparison of an incoming video call at 30kbps with our new AV1 (AOMedia Video 1) video codec technology on the left.

Capture special and everyday moments

The way we get together has changed, but we’re still making memories, whether it’s watching someone blow out their birthday candles on a video call, or video chatting with friends while cooking dinner. When you’re on a video call with another person, starting today you can quickly take a photo together to capture the moment on smartphones, tablets and Chromebooks, and share it automatically with everyone on the call. You'll be able to do this on group calls and on more devices soon.
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Bring more people together on your video calls

Group calling is on the rise—in the past four weeks, we’re seeing eight times the number of group calls on Duo. On Android and iOS, we recently increased our group size to 12 participants (instead of 8), and in the coming weeks we plan to increase participants even further.

Duo_12PersonGroupCall_1080X1080_TransparentBG.gif

Let someone know you’re thinking of them

Duo makes it easy to send personalized video and voice messages when you can’t call. Over the past year, we’ve added even more ways to share a quick moment, from photos to simple notes with text or doodles. In the past few weeks, Duo users are sending 180 percent more messages, with an 800 percent increase in regions particularly impacted by social distancing. You can say “I miss you” or “I’m thinking of you” using one of our latest AR effects. And soon, you’ll have the option to automatically save your messages in Duo instead of having them expire after 24 hours, so it’s easier to preserve your meaningful messages.
Duo Thinking Of You video message effect.gif

With Google Duo, you can make high quality calls to anyone in your contact list in just a few taps across Android, iOS, tablets, web browsers on Windows, Mac, or Chrome OS, or even smart speakers and smart displays like the Nest Hub Max. We hope these features help you feel closer to your friends and family even if you can’t be physically together.