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New Duo and Meet features: 49-person grid, background blur, screen sharing and more

2020 has been an exciting year for video conferencing, with millions of people around the world working, learning and socializing from home, and a steady stream of new video calling features.

Google has two video calling platforms: Duo, for video chats with friends and family, and Meet , a video conferencing platform designed for businesses and schools. Google has released an amazing number of new features for both platforms since last April

Updates just in the past week:

Read on for an overview of the major Duo and Meet updates since April. 

Duo Updates

  • Communication tools
  • Video calling on more devices
  • Just for fun

Google Meet Updates

  • See more meeting participants
  • Blur your background
  • Fewer steps to start a meeting
  • Meet in Gmail
  • Mobile app redesign
  • Meet on TV and smart displays
  • Meet updates for education and business

Google Duo Updates

Google Duo is mobile-first video calling for friends and family. It has fun augmented reality filters and is end-to-end encrypted for secure calls. 

While you need to set up your Duo account on a mobile phone using your phone number, you can connect Duo to your Google account to let people contact you using your Google account email. Connecting a Google account also lets you use Duo on your desktop computer or laptop. 

Communication tools
 

Over the past few months Duo calling has gotten a number of updates that make it an even more useful communication tool: 
Call on more platforms

You can make and join a Duo video call on your phone, the web, smart home display or TV. 
Just for fun
Duo has some fun features on mobile. 

Google Meet Updates

Google Meet is designed for video meetings, classes, workshops, and large groups. It is most full featured on desktop devices, with fewer features in the Meet mobile apps.  

Meet was made available to anyone using a free Google account in May. Using Meet with personal accounts has some limitations

  • Limited meeting length: Personal Meet meetings are limited to 60 minutes, but this will not be enforced until September 30.
  • No anonymous participants: All participants in a Meet meeting hosted by a personal account must be signed in to a Google account.
  • No recording
  • No dial-in phone numbers: participants must join on the web or using the mobile app
Note: I have focused on features for personal Google accounts. While most of the features described below are available to everyone using Meet, some features may be different (or not available) to G Suite for Education or Business users. 

See More Meeting Participants


Meet is designed for large meetings. Personal accounts can host meetings with up to 100 people, while G Suite Business, Essentials and Enterprise accounts can host larger meetings. 

In April, Meet introduced a new grid view that let you see 16 participants at a time on the web. 

Today, that has been expanded to up to 49 participants, including (optionally) yourself.

You won't automatically see that many people. The default is 9 people if you are using auto layouts, and 16 people if you are using tiled view.  In the Layout settings, there is a slider bar that lets you select a larger grid. 

1. Join a Google Meet meeting on the web
2. Click the 3 dot menu icon at lower right
3. Select Change Layout
4. Set your preferred layout to Tiled or Auto (if you want Meet to choose for you)
5. Adjust the maximum number of people to show at one time

Meet will remember your preferred layout, but will always revert to the default number of participants on screen. That means that if you want to see more people, you will have to adjust that in every meeting.

You can choose to not see yourself by hovering over your face, and selecting Remove this tile.

Meet also made improvements to layouts so that you can see other participants while someone is presenting.

Blur your background

Today Meet announced background blurring is rolling out, and should be available in the next few weeks. 

There are currently some limitations: 
  • Only on Mac or Windows computers on the web. 
  • You must use the Chrome browser.
  • Your computer must be a 4 core device or higher that supports Hyper-Threading.
It is not currently available on Chromebooks or on mobile devices, but those should be options in the future.

The option to replace your background should be available in the future as well. 

How to blur your background in a Meet Meeting:
  • On the Join screen click the 3 dot menu icon at bottom right of your video feed and select Turn on background blur
  • After you have joined a meeting, click the 3 dot menu icon at the bottom right of your screen and select Turn on background blur
Note that you may need to turn on Chrome hardware acceleration for blurring to work properly.

Fewer steps to set up a meeting

Meet has made it easier to start or schedule a meeting. When you select the New Meeting button in Meet on the web, Gmail on the web or the Gmail mobile app, you will see three options: 
  • Get a meeting link to share
  • Start an instant meeting
  • Schedule a meeting in Google Calendar
You can also set up a new Meet meeting by adding conferencing to a Google Calendar Event.

Meet in Gmail

You can now launch, join or schedule a Meet meeting in Gmail on the web or the Gmail mobile app.

In Gmail on the web, there is a Meet section on the left sidebar with buttons to Start or Join a meeting. 

You can hide this in your Gmail settings:

1. Click the Settings gear at top right
2. Click See all settings
3. Click the Chat and Meet tab
4. Select the option to Hide the Meet section

In the Gmail mobile app,  tap the Meet tab at the bottom of the screen. You will see your scheduled Meet meetings, and buttons for a New meeting  or to Join with a code. 
You can hide the Meet tab in the Gmail app:

1. Tap Settings on the bottom of the left menu.
2. Select your Gmail email address
3. In the settings, under Meet, untick the box next to Show the Meet tab for video calling.

Mobile app redesign

There is a new design for the Meet mobile app with the look and feel that matches the Meet tab in the Gmail app.

This is available for iOS now, and will be available soon for Android.

Meet on TV and smart displays


If you want to see your meeting or class on the big screen, you can now cast your Meet meeting to your TV with chromecast. You can also cast to a Nest smart display.

Open or join your meeting in the Chrome browser on your computer or laptop, then click the Cast this meeting button to connect to your Chromecast. 

If you have a Google Nest Hub Max smart display, you can start or join a meeting using just your voice
  • Say "Hey Google, start a meeting”  to create a new meeting 
  • Say "Hey Google, join my next meeting"  to instantly join your next scheduled meeting on Google Calendar
  • Say "Hey Google, join a meeting" then tap the "enter a meeting code" option and type it in to join.

Meet updates for Education and Business

Google has also released a number of new Meet features specifically for G Suite for Education and G Suite for Business, with more in the pipeline. I won't go into those changes in detail, but I've included links below if you are interested in learning more.

To help the many businesses and schools affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in April Google extended premium Meet features to all G Suite customers at no extra charge, including meetings with up to 250 participants, meeting recording, and live streaming within an organization. That promotion ends September 30.

More Google Meet updates for G Suite for Education

More Google Meet updates for Business

More about different Google Meet editions

What about classic Hangouts video calls? 

Hangouts video calling is still available for personal Google accounts at hangouts.google.com, the Chrome Hangouts extension or Hangouts mobile app. 

You can still make a Hangouts video call in Gmail by opening the conversation with the person you want to call, then clicking the video icon. 

There are no feature updates and there aren't likely to be any as Google's current focus is on Meet and Duo. 

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