As demand for easy-to-use video conferencing tools from institutions and businesses surges as a result of the coronavirus crisis, Google Meet is currently adding more features in order to accommodate the more than two million new users a day who need to communicate remotely for work, school and private use.
Meeting With 16 People at Once
At the end of April, Google plans to add a bigger gallery to its Meet video conferencing platform, so that a meeting can have 16 participants in one frame. Although it’s less than what the more business-oriented Zoom platform offers with meetings of up to 100 people (and up to 500 with the purchase an add-on), it does however requires a powerful enough computer to handle all that CPU usage, which many people simply don’t have. Google Meet also uses a 25-character string for meeting IDs, stopping external participants from joining a meeting 15 minutes before it starts for better privacy.
Meet is available to businesses, governments and schools, and is different from the consumer-focused video call tool Google Hangouts. Previously, to get a complete video conferencing experience, users had to use available Google Chrome extensions, such as Meet Extension and Google Meet Grid View. As well, many schools that were using Google Classroom before the health crisis also had to use Meet or something similar to be able to fulfill all their video needs.
Google also plans to improve the sound quality and video of Meet. Filtering out background noise such as keyboard and mouse clicks so that participants can hear each other better will be welcome by many. As for video, dimly lit places should appear more clearly considering the need to be able to see people and read facial expressions better in many circumstances. Any kind of improvement to the sound or picture will greatly enhance the experience of communicating to a group for business and educational users as well as anyone who has to talk to a loved one in the hospital or in another country.
Starting Video Chats from Gmail
Another new feature will allow users to start calls and join meetings straight from the sidebar in Gmail. Google has made its Meet video conferencing app accessible directly from Gmail to allow users to join meetings without switching between apps. Access to Meet within Gmail is currently available in web browsers, although Google has announced that a mobile app version is coming soon, which is good news, knowing that a large segment of the world’s population uses their mobile phone to stay connected rather than a computer or tablet.
The left-hand panel of Gmail will have options to start or join a meeting. When starting a meeting, a new window will open with a secure and unique URL. Participants who join a meeting can either enter a code provided by the organizer or start up their own meeting. This can be shared with colleagues within the same G Suite domain and typed into the “Join a meeting” bar to get started.
The Advantages of Gmail Integration
While businesses are looking for the best ways to work safely from home during the coronavirus crisis, many people work from different types of locations and are not always sitting comfortably in a home office. By enabling users to access the video app from Gmail, Google hopes to make it faster and easier for everyone to start video meetings.
Being able to access Meet directly from Gmail is a continuation of the integration started last year when Google integrated its team chat app platform, Hangout Chat, with the e-mail client. The goal is also to catch up quickly to Microsoft, which was been offering their Teams video conferencing platform for quite some time. It should also strengthen Google’s position against other well-known competitors such as Slack, Zoom and Houseparty.