Google is updating Meet so at least you won't have to look at your hollow, careworn face

AI exposure fiddling and a party video background to remind you of the fun you aren't having


Google has pushed through modifications for that thing that isn't Zoom or Teams. Meet is getting a polish.

It is fair to say that Meet has not been the slam-dunk it might have been as remote and hybrid working suddenly expanded. Enterprises already in the Microsoft 365 world mostly embraced Teams while "Zoom" became as much a verb for an online meeting as "Google" did for searching the web.

Meet has, however, languished somewhat despite Google's efforts to pile on the features.

Joining the chorus of big tech vendors recognising that something needs to be done about all those meetings we keep having online, Google is to give the user interface of its Meet application an overhaul and add some features already on its mobile apps to its desktop interface.

It's all in the name of "collaboration equity," according to Google. And it will, as is so often the case, involve the dead hand of AI in trying to improve things.

It is somewhat of a checklist of things that its competitors are already doing. You want to change your backdrop to something other than your bedroom wall, just like Zoom? Sure, Google Meet will add video to the existing Background Replace already rolling out to Meet on Android and iOS devices. Only three options (classroom, forest, and party) will be available at first, but at least the latter will serve as distraction from the grim reality in which many users have found themselves.

The user interface has also been updated to allow a participant to see themselves as a tile in the meeting grid, a floating picture or hidden from their own view entirely (and the self-feed turned off across all Google Meet calls). Content and multiple video feeds can also be pinned or unpinned.

"This will provide greater flexibility in how you combine people and content, adjusting for whatever you care about most in the moment," Google said.

Sounds a bit harsh, but fair enough.

AI video adjustment is also on the cards, tweaking low light and underexposure scenarios for web users in a way already familiar to those on mobile devices. AI is also being used by Autozoom to keep a user squarely in the frame as they move "so everyone in your team can stay focused on what matters," although you'll need to be a paid subscriber to Google Workspace for that feature when it turns up in the coming months.

We can't help but wonder if Google might have missed the point somewhat. Arch-rival Microsoft has been banging the "meetings stress people out" drum for a while now and has begun introducing settings to allow admins to tweak Outlook meetings accordingly.

Google's approach to meeting fatigue? A widget to hide your feed so you don't have to look at yourself while Bob from sales unloads another 100-slide presentation onto the world. ®


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