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New video call features in Google Meet and Duo

With social distancing in place around the world, millions of people are using video calling for work, classes, telemedicine, and visits with family and friends. Google, Microsoft, Zoom and other companies that offer video calling services have responding to user feedback improving security and introducing new features at a rapid pace.  

Hangouts Meet — now just Google Meet — was launched just over three years ago. It's been steadily getting new features, but because it is only available to business and education G Suite accounts, it hasn't gotten as much public notice as other video conferencing services like Zoom, Skype, or even classic Hangouts.

But now, with people working from home, schools teaching classes remotely, there are more than 2 million new users connecting to Meet every day. And in response Meet has introduced a number of new features for business users and educators.

If you don't have a G Suite account, and you have not been invited to join a Meet meeting, you can use Google's consumer video calling services Duo and good old classic Hangouts (which is not dead yet).  Duo also announced several new features this week.

Here's an overview of what's new:
Read on for more details.

Premium Meet features for all G Suite customers through September 30

In the first week of March, Google announced that premium features that are usually only available to Enterprise customers would be available to all Basic, Business, Education customers through July 1st. As it became clearer the current crisis will extend beyond June, Google extended availability through September 30th.

These features include:
If you are new to Meet, these very brief tutorials give a good overview of the features.

New Meet Features

In the past week Meet announced a number of widely-requested features.

Start or join a Google Meeting from inside Gmail
If you have Chat enabled in your G Suite Gmail account you should now see the option to start or join a Meet meeting on the left sidebar. 

This is currently only available in Gmail on desktop. Learn more.

See up to 16 meeting participants at a time in the Tiled layout
Meet has several different layouts that let you view just the speaker or presentation or multiple other viewers. The "Tiled" layout let you see up to 4 other participants. Many teachers and other users asked to be able to see more participants at once. Someone even created an extension that would show more Meet meeting participants in a grid view à la Zoom.

Now Meet is rolling out the ability to see up to 16 meeting participants at a time. The most recently active participants will be displayed. 

This will be rolling out over the next couple weeks. Learn more.

Improved video and audio presentations

While Meet has always allowed you to share a window or tab in a meeting, shared videos didn't look or sound great.  

Now you can choose the option to Present a Chrome Tab to share high quality video and audio in a meeting. If you share embedded videos or audio, animations, or GIFs this is the option to choose. Presenting a Chrome tab shares that tab's audio by default.

This option also lets you switch your presentation to a different tab while you are presenting.

This feature should be available now. Learn More

Low-Light Mode on Mobile

Meet uses artificial intelligence to automatically make you more visible when the light levels are low so other meeting participants can see you.

This is rolling out to mobile users and "will be available to web users in the future". Learn More

Noise cancellation

Even when you are working from home, background noise from dogs barking, keyboards clacking or lawnmowers mowing can disrupt a meeting. Meet's noise cancellation technology will "intelligently filter out  background distractions". In their short demo, the technology appears to work impressively well.

This will be rolling out to G Suite Enterprise and Enterprise for Education customers in the coming weeks. Learn More.

Meet Updates for Education

One thing that is abundantly clear is that online classes have different needs than business meetings. Teachers need control over students behavior to keep students safe and prevent disruptions. 
For large classes teachers can live stream the lesson and use Google Slides Q&A for students to submit questions during the presentation.

These brief tutorials show how to use Meet for teaching:

Google has also set up a Teach from Home hub with tutorials and tips for teachers.

Duo and Hangouts Video Calls for Consumer Users

Classic Hangouts
If you do not have a G Suite account, you can use classic Hangouts video calls to hold meetings. While it isn't as full-featured as Meet, it includes basic meeting features:
  • Up to 10 participants 
  • Screen sharing  on desktop
  • Block and report spammers and griefers
Unfortunately some of the more advanced features in Hangouts Video Calls used the Google+ Hangouts API, which was completely shutdown along with consumer Google+.

You can access Hangouts on desktop at hangouts.google.com, in Gmail, or with the Hangouts Chrome Extension. On your mobile device use the Hangouts Android and iOS app. 

While Google has said that consumer users will eventually be migrated from classic Hangouts to Meet, it isn't clear when that may happen. Any timeline for that transition is likely disrupted now. 

Google Duo


I also recommend checking out Google Duo for video calling your friends and family. It does require setup on your phone, but once you have done that you can use Duo for 1:1 calls on desktop (duo.google.com) as well. And it uses end-to-end encryption to protect your privacy. 

In these socially-distanced times, Google reports that over 10 million new people are signing up for Duo every week.

On mobile devices Duo has a number of useful features: 
And Google just announced several new features

Get Help with video calls!

If you are confused or having trouble video calling, there is help:

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