Google Meet adds blurry and custom backgrounds

In addition to group calls on today’s Nest Hub Max, Google is previewing a series of upcoming Meet features for education customers and businesses. This includes blurry and custom backgrounds, raising hands and new moderation controls.

Like Zoom and other popular video conferencing apps, Google Meet will soon allow you to blur your background or replace it entirely. Google will offer a number of defaults and will be able to load theirs, although administrators can disable this functionality.

In addition to being fun, Google frames it as a way to hide “an environment you don’t want others to see,” while helping “students and educators feel more comfortable watching videos from home. Custom Google Meet backgrounds will be available in the “coming months”.

Google recently introduced a 16-person mosaic view and now plans to add a user interface that can accommodate up to 49 participants at a time. Other features on the Meet roadmap include:

  • Raising hand: Increase participation in larger meetings by allowing participants to “raise their hands” when they have a question or something to say.
  • Attendance at meetings: Give meeting hosts a simple way to see who attended your meeting.
  • Rest rooms: Make it easier for large meetings to break up into smaller groups, have parallel discussions, and meet once they are over.
  • Q&A: Provide a channel for the audience to ask questions without interrupting the flow of the conversation.
  • Vote: Engage participants in large meetings with real-time surveys.
  • Additional moderator controls: Provide meeting organizers with additional controls to mute, present, join, and more.

Google did not specify when these features will be released today.

Google is also implementing more moderation controls for teachers this year. Educators will be able to better control meeting requests through a “less intrusive” interface and other behavioral changes:

  • When someone requests to join a meeting (or “swipes”), they will not be able to play again after being kicked out of a meeting, and a swipe will no longer appear after a moderator twice rejects it.
  • Moderators will also be able to end the meeting for all participants, ensuring that no student is delayed once the teacher has left.
  • And we’ll soon be blocking anonymous attendees from joining default Education meetings, although schools may choose to allow anonymous participants.

Meanwhile, the “Hey Google” voice control for Meet hardware kits will be out of beta in the coming weeks and will be generally available for Asus and Logitech devices. On the hardware front, Google is also adding a virtual whiteboard to Meet via Jamboard:

Jamboard’s integration into Meet makes it easy for those at a distance to participate in brainstorming activities, but it also allows workers to return to the office whiteboard directly from their laptop or mobile device.

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