Google has announced a refresh of its Meet user interface for desktop and laptop users, to begin rolling out next month.
The updates to the videoconferencing app’s web interface include improvements to video feeds, how you view and present meetings, and the navigation bar. Dave Citron, director of product management for Google Meet, said these improvements aim to “deepen the meeting experience, regardless of how and where people participate.”
Addressing meeting fatigue
In a blog post, Citron said that by giving users more control over how they view themselves in meetings, Google hopes to reduce “meeting fatigue.” Users can choose to have their video feed in a standard tile in the grid or as a floating picture, which can be resized, repositioned, or minimized completely. Google said it will also be adding a setting that enables meeting participants to turn off self-feed across all Google Meet calls.
While available for free to individuals, Meet is part of the Google Workspace office suite. Subscribers will get additional tools in the refresh, including an autozoom function, which zooms in and positions the user squarely in front.
Angela Ashenden, principal analyst for workplace transformation at CCS Insight, said that this refresh represents an important feature update for Google, as it addresses some of the inflexibility in the Meet experience, which saw it falling behind some of its competitors.
“The ability to pin more than one video feed where there are multiple speakers, as well as clear highlighting of the active speaker and the removal of the pop-up controls which overlaid the bottom row of video feeds or the shared content, for example, all help to make the meeting experience more user-friendly and less intrusive,” she said.
With research from CCS Insight showing that the average person spends 1.7 hours a day on video calls, features that help to reduce the fatigue felt by employees is a must for vendors that want to remain competitive. Ashenden said that allowing Google Meet users both to unpin shared content to create more room for viewing video panels and to remove self-view from the screen help to reduce some of the friction associated with video calls.
Responding to customer feedback
Additional UI changes include automated live captions in five languages, engagement controls for educators and students, and new mobile capabilities designed to keep team members connected no matter where they are. Google said many of the new enhancements to Meet were “largely inspired” by customer and user feedback.
The bottom navigation bar is also getting a refresh. Dial-in codes, attachments, call lists, chat, and other functions will be consolidated along the bottom, creating more screen space for additional participants.
Last year, Google introduced low-light mode for Meet on mobile. The feature uses AI to automatically adjust a participant’s video to make them more visible in a dark environment or reduce glare if users have too much light coming in through a sunny window. This light adjustment feature will be coming to the web interface in the coming weeks. Users will also have access to “fun” video backgrounds: a classroom, a party, and a forest, with more coming soon.
Ashenden said that these new features show that Google is responding positively to customers’ feedback and is thinking creatively about how to improve the Meet experience. However, she believes there are still areas where it needs improvements. “For example, in how you ensure that the presenter can present content while still being active in the meeting experience, and also the friction and overlap between its chat and Q&A capability,” she said.
“These are not necessarily areas where its competition has solved the problem, as these are common challenges with meeting tools,” she noted. “[But] if it’s going to catch up with the likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, it’s important for Google to be innovating and raising the bar in a much more definitive way.”
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.