As millions of people work and take classes from home, video conferencing solutions have become an increasingly important part of everyday life. Enterprise-focused solutions like Zoom have seen their share price sky-rocket as families and friends turn to the app to keep in touch, while social media giants like Facebook and Google have raced to adapt their messaging apps so they’re fit for the increased demands for video calls.
While Facebook-owned WhatsApp recently doubled the maximum limit for video calls, Facebook introduced an entirely-new service – known as Messenger Rooms – where up to 50 people from Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger can video call one another, Google has decided to open-up its Google Meet service to everyone for free.
Previously reserved only for those with business or education accounts with Google, Meet can host up to 100 people at a time. That’s a lot of relatives in a single call. And while Zoom limits free accounts to 40-minutes at a time (you’ll need to pay a subscription fee to talk for longer, or have to kickstart a new call with the same people), Google Meet won’t enforce any limit for the time being. The free Google Meet option will be limited to 60 minutes – still more generous than the 40 minutes allowed by rival Zoom –when the time limit is enforced from September 30, 2020 onwards.
But that’s not the feature that could convince you to make the switch from Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook or FaceTime for your weekly family quiz or daily check-in with colleagues and friends. Google has previewed a new feature – known as noise cancellation – that will be rolling out to Android, iOS and online users in the very near future.
As the name suggests, noise cancellation will remove any background sounds – like tapping on a keyboard, the soft hum of a desk-fan, or the rustle of a crisps packet during a mid-meeting snack. To do this, Google will use its clever AI to remove these troublesome sounds and add clarity to your voice.
This all happens in the cloud, so shouldn’t be taxing on your laptop or phone – no matter how tired or underpowered it is.
When it launches, noise cancellation will be enabled by default. Although, if you feel the need to regale your colleagues with the sound of your fingers hammering on the keys or the gurgle of the central heating kicking in, Google Meet users will be able to switch it off.
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Google is leveraging its AI to bring a number of changes to video call users. Using facial recognition, Google Meet can identify your facial features and use software to lighten them – even if you’ve chosen to sit in-front of a window, casting yourself in shadow.
This feature is out now on iOS and Android. Those who join on laptops will not be able to use this benefit quite yet. Since there’s not a dedicated image signal processor built into the webcam of most laptops, it’s a little tougher for Google to roll out this feature quite yet.
Google Meet is available to anyone with a Google Account (these are free for anyone and you can sign-up with an existing email address if you’d rather not commit to Gmail) at Meet.Google.com.
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