Google Meet will automatically adjust webcam brightness in your browser

Google Meet will soon make it easier for you to see all of your co-workers or friends properly on video calls. The web version of the app can detect when someone is underexposed due to bad lighting. Meet will then increase the brightness so it’s easier to see your cohorts and perhaps make your feed clearer if you have a terrible webcam.

The low-light mode hit the Google Meet iOS and Android mobile apps last year. It uses AI to examine light levels and tweak the brightness. There’s no admin control for the feature, though users will be able to switch it off — Google says having it enabled might slow down your device.

The feature is coming to all Workspace and G Suite basic and business users. Google is rolling it out to Rapid Release domains starting today and Scheduled Release domains on October 4th. The rollout will take up to 15 days in both cases, so by mid-October, bad webcam feeds could be a thing of the past on Meet calls.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

#column, #google, #google-meet, #tc, #tceng, #video-conferencing

Google Workspace opens up spaces for all users

Employee location has become a bit more complicated as some return to the office, while others work remotely. To embrace those hybrid working conditions, Google is making more changes to its Google Workspace offering by going live with spaces — its tool for small group sharing — in Google Chat for all users.

Spaces integrates with Workspace tools, like the calendar, Drive and documents, to provide a more hybrid work experience where users can see the full history, content and context of conversations regardless of their location.

Google’s senior director of product management Sanaz Ahari wrote in a blog post that customers wanted spaces to be more like a “central hub for collaboration, both in real time and asynchronously. Instead of starting an email chain or scheduling a video meeting, teams can come together directly in a space to move projects and topics along.”

Here are some new features users can see in spaces:

  • One interface for everything — inbox, chats, spaces and meetings.
  • Spaces, and content therein, can be made discoverable for people to find and join in the conversation.
  • Better search ability within a team’s knowledge base.
  • Ability to reply to any message within a space.
  • Enhanced security and admin tools to monitor communication.

Employees can now indicate if they will be virtual or in-person on certain days in Calendar for collaboration expectations. As a complement, users can call colleagues on both mobile and desktop devices in Google Meet.

Calendar work location

In November, all customers will be able to use Google Meet’s Companion Mode to join a meeting from a personal device while tapping into in-room audio and video. Also later this year, live-translated captions will be available in English to French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, with more languages being added in the future.

In addition, Google is also expanding its Google Meet hardware portfolio to include two new all-in-one video conferencing devices, third-party devices — Logitech’s video bar and Appcessori’s mobile device speaker dock — and interoperability with Webex by Cisco.

Google is tying everything together with a handbook for navigating hybrid work, which includes best practice blueprints for five common hybrid meetings.

 

#apps, #cloud, #computing, #enterprise, #google, #google-meet, #google-workspace, #groupware, #mobile-device, #mobile-software, #tc, #technology, #telecommunications, #video-conferencing, #web-conferencing, #webex

Google interconnects its Workspace apps, adds a dozen new features

Google kicked off its Google I/O Developer event this afternoon with a set of new collaborative workspace tools, which it’s calling, as a group, “Smart Canvas.” The company demonstrated using how Smart Canvas works for brainstorming and project planning, showing how users could drop in ideas about an upcoming launch, share their thoughts, work on documents together, join Google Meet calls, and solve problems together.

The company says it’s enhancing its everyday collaborative documents, like Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, with a dozen some new features, as a part of its effort in the Smart Canvas update.

Now, when users @mention others in a document, a smart chip will pop up, displaying that person’s location, job title and contact information. Smart chips will also now appear for recommended files and meetings in Docs, and will soon roll out to Sheets.

Google’s assisted writing feature will now offer more inclusive language recommendations as you write — like that you use the word “chairperson” instead of “chairman,” for example.

Other updates include a pageless format in Docs to remove page boundaries, emoji reactions in Docs, the ability to import info from Calendar meeting invites, connected checklists in Docs that let you sign items to other people and see these action items in Google Tasks, Table templates in Docs, a timeline view in Sheets, more assisted analysis functionality in our Sheets, the ability to create Docs, Sheets and Slides from Google Chat rooms, and more.

One of the more interesting changes, however, was support for live captions and translations in Google Meet, and the ability to now present your content to a Google Meet call on the web directly from your Doc, Sheet or Slide. This puts Google in competition with other meeting transcription services, like Otter.ai.

The updates paint a picture of Google’s aim to make its workspace apps connect together more seamlessly, instead of being separate components — that helps to lock users inside Google’s walled garden, and makes it more difficult to swap out one of Google’s workspace apps for a competitor.

#google, #google-chat, #google-io-2021, #google-meet, #google-sheets, #google-slides, #google-workspace, #google-docs, #tc

Daily Crunch: Google Meet will get a new look and new features

Google announces upgrades to Google Meet, Amazon is bringing its palm scanner to Whole Foods and Microsoft looks at the effect of video calls on our brains. This is your Daily Crunch for April 21, 2021.

The big story: Google Meet will get a new look and new features

Google Meet is getting a number of updates, including a new user interface that should make the controls more visible (rather than hiding them in menus), the ability to pin multiple video feeds, autozoom (which will automatically place you in the center of the frame) and background replacement, starting with just a few scenes.

It sounds like these changes aren’t happening all at once, but will roll out gradually over the next few months. Google said the goal is to make online meetings “more immersive, inclusive and productive.”

The tech giants

Foxconn’s Wisconsin factory plans scaled back dramatically — The Taiwanese manufacturing giant is scaling back its investment from $10 billion to $672 million.

Amazon is bringing its Amazon One palm scanner to select Whole Foods as a payment option — That means Whole Foods customers could choose to scan their palm over the reader to pay for their purchases.

Instagram launches tools to filter out abusive DMs based on keywords and emojis — It will also allow users to proactively block people, even if they try to make contact from a new account.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Remote hiring startup Deel raises $156M at a $1.25B valuation after 20x growth in 2020 — Deel aims to allow businesses “to hire anyone, anywhere, in a compliant manner.”

Discount grocery startup Misfits Market raises $200M — This round moves the startup known for selling “ugly” fruits and vegetables into unicorn territory.

AppOmni raises $40M for tools to secure enterprise SaaS apps — The startup has built a platform to help monitor SaaS apps and their activity, provide guidance to warn or block when things might go wrong and fix problems when they do occur.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Four ways martech will shift in 2021 — First and foremost, differentiation is going to be imperative.

Micromobility’s next big business is software, not vehicles — The days of the shared, dockless micromobility model are numbered, at least according to Puneeth Meruva of Trucks Venture Capital.

Dear Sophie: How can I get my startup off the ground and visit the US? — The latest edition of Dear Sophie, the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

This is your brain on Zoom — Microsoft has done a little brain science and found out that yeah, constant video calls do increase your stress and brain noise.

New privacy bill would end law enforcement practice of buying data from brokers — A new bill known as the Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act would seal up a loophole that intelligence and law enforcement agencies use to obtain troves of sensitive and identifying information.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #google, #google-meet, #tc

A.I.-powered transcription service Otter.ai can now record from Google Meet

Otter.ai, the A.I.-powered voice transcription service which already integrates with Zoom for recording online meetings and webinars, is today bringing its service to Google Meet’s over 100 million users. However, in this case, Otter.ai will provide its live, interactive transcripts and video captions by way of a Chrome web browser extension.

Once installed, a “Live Notes” panel will launch directly in the Chrome web browser during Google Meet calls, where it appears on the side of the Google Meet interface. The panel can be moved around and scrolled through as the meeting is underway.

Here, users can view the live transcript of the online meeting, as it occurs. They can also adjust the text size, then save and share the audio transcripts when the meeting has wrapped.

The company says the feature helps businesses cut down on miscommunication, particularly for non-native English speakers who may have trouble understanding the spoken word. It also offers a more accessible way for engaging with live meeting content.

And because the transcriptions can be shared after the fact, people who missed the meeting can still be looped in to catch up — an increasing need in the remote work era of the pandemic, where home and parenting responsibilities can often distract users from their daily tasks.

The transcripts themselves can also be edited after the fact by adding images and highlights, and they can be searched by keywords, as with any Otter.ai transcription.

In addition, users can access the company’s Live Captions feature that supports custom vocabulary. Otter points out that there are other live captioning options already available for Google Meet, but the difference here is that Otter’s system creates a collaborative transcript when the meeting ends. Other systems, meanwhile, tend to just offer live captions during the meeting itself.

To use the new feature, Chrome users will need to install the Otter.ai Chrome extension from the Chrome Web Store, then sign in to their Otter.ai account. The new feature is available to all Otter.ai customers, including those on Basic, Pro and Business plans.

Otter in the past leveraged its earlier Zoom integration to push more users from free plans to paid tiers, and will likely do the same with the new Google Meet support. The company’s paid plans offer the ability to record more minutes per month, and include a range of additional features like the ability to import audio and video for transcription, a variety of export options, advanced search features, Dropbox sync, added security measures, and more.

The company has seen its business increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying shift to online meetings. Last April, Otter said it had transcribed over 25 million meetings, and its revenue run rated had doubled compared with the end of 2019.

#a-i, #artificial-intelligence, #google-meet, #online-meetings, #startups, #web-conferencing

Google will let everyone migrate from Hangouts to Chat for free in 2021

Google’s strategy around its messaging apps is nothing if not messy right now (hello Hangouts, Meet, Chat, Duo and Co.), but it looks like things will get a bit easier come next year. We already knew that Hangouts’ time was coming to an end and as Google announced today, the company will allow all current Hangouts users to migrate to Chat — which was originally meant to only be its Slack-like messaging service for business users — in the first half of 2021.

One interesting wrinkle here: Chat will now also become free to use for consumers. Currently, you have to be a paying G Suite/Workspace user to access the service (though somehow it’s enabled on my free personal account).

While Chat isn’t an exact 1-to-1 replacement of Hangouts, it actually offers a bunch of additional features for group chats and collaboration around files and tasks, as well as new security tools. Chat, together with Rooms and Meet, will also be integrated deeply into the Gmail app as part of Google’s Workspace migration.

Image Credits: Google

Google says it will automatically migrate all Hangouts conversations, contacts and history to Chat, but it’s not providing details about this yet. Final timing, Google says, may still shift. It’s not clear, though, when Google will force everyone to migrate and shut down the Hangouts servers for good.

There are a few more details here: if you use Hangouts with Google Fi, Hangouts support will go away ‘early next year.’ Traditionally, Fi users were able to make calls and manage their text messages from Hangouts. That experience will migrate to Google’s Messages app.

If you’re a Google Voice user, there’s a similar transition happening. For voice calls and text messages, Hangouts users will now be directed to the Voice app and early next year, your Voice support will be removed from Hangouts.

And for all users in the U.S. and Europe, the ability to call phones from Hangouts will disappear at the beginning of next year — and group video calls in Hangouts will transition to Meet in November.

Yeah — that all sounds complicated, but it’s a problem of Google’s own making. A few years ago, the idea was to move Hangouts users to its Allo and Duo apps and business users to Chat and Meet (or whatever they were called back then). Allo flopped (and few people use Duo), leaving Google with the unenviable task of keeping the aging Hangouts platform around for the foreseeable future and making the overall transition harder and more complicated, to the point where I’m not sure that consumers really understand what’s happening.

 

#cloud-applications, #europe, #google, #google-allo, #google-chat, #google-duo, #google-hangouts, #google-meet, #google-voice, #software, #tc

Google Meet and other Google services go down (Updated)

Google’s engineers aren’t having a good day today. This afternoon, a number of Google services went offline or are barely reachable. These services include Google Meet, Drive, Docs, Analytics, Classroom and Calendar, for example.

While Google’s own status dashboards don’t show any issues, we’re seeing reports from around the world from people who aren’t able to reach any of these services. Best we can tell, these issues started around 6pm PT.

It’s unusual for this number of Google services to go down at once. Usually, it’s only a single service that is affected. This time around, however, it’s clearly a far broader issue.

We’ve reached out to Google and will update this post once we hear more about what happened.

Update (6:30pm PT): and we’re back. It looks like most Google services are now recovering.

 

#analytics, #calendar, #classroom, #companies, #docs, #drive, #gmail, #google, #google-meet, #san-francisco-bay-area, #tc, #websites, #x

Gmail, Google Drive hit by outage

Having trouble accessing your Gmail, Google Drive, or Google Meet? You’re not alone. Thousands of users, mostly in India, parts of the U.S., Australia, Japan, and Malaysia are reporting that they are unable to access the aforementioned Google services.

Some users have reported that they are unable to log-in into their Gmail accounts, while others are saying new emails are not showing up in the app and they are unable to add attachments. Some Google Drive users, including yours truly, are unable to upload new files to the cloud.

Third-party web monitoring firm DownDetector has corroborated the reports that began pouring in at around 04:40 GMT. Google has acknowledged the existence of this outage to G Suite users, saying it is investigating the issue.

“We will provide an update by 8/20/20, 1:30 PM (IST) detailing when we expect to resolve the problem,” it wrote. More than two billion users rely on G Suite, Google said in March this year.

DownDetector estimates the regions that are facing the Gmail outage

We will update the story when things change.

#apps, #asia, #gmail, #google-meet, #google-docs, #google-drive

India’s richest man takes on Zoom

India’s Reliance Jio Platforms, which recently concluded a $15.2 billion fundraise run, is ready to enter a new business: Video conferencing.

On Thursday evening, the firm — backed by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man — formally launched JioMeet, its video-conference service.

Like Zoom and Google Meet, JioMeet offers unlimited number of free calls in high definition (720p) to users and supports as many as 100 participants on a call. But interestingly, it’s not imposing a short time limit on a call’s duration. Jio Platforms says a call can be “up to 24 hours” long. The service currently has no paid plans and it’s unclear if Jio Platforms, which has a reputation of giving away services for free for years, plans to change that.

Jio Platforms, which began beta testing JioMeet in May this year, said the video conferencing service offers “enterprise-grade” host controls. These include: password protection on each call, multi-device login support (up to five devices), and ability to share screen and collaborate.

Other features include the ability to switch “seemingly” from one device to another, and a ‘Safe Driving Mode’ for when a participant is in commute. Hosts can also enable a ‘waiting room’ to ensure participants have to ask for permission to enter a call.

Reliance Jio Platforms is taking on Zoom with JioMeet, which looks a lot like Zoom

JioMeet is available for use through Chrome and Firefox browsers on desktop, as well as has standalone apps for macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android. It also has an Outlook plugin.

In a call with analysts earlier this year, Jio executives had described JioMeet as a platform that they think would some day have features to enable doctors to consult their patients, prescribe them medicine, and have a system in place to let them buy medicines online and get test results digitally. Similarly, they said JioMeet will allow teachers to host virtual classrooms for their students, with the ability to record sessions, assign and accept homework, and conduct tests digitally.

JioPlatforms, which is India’s top telecom operator with about 400 million customers, operates a number of digital services including JioMusic, a music streaming service; JioCinema, which offers thousands of TV shows and movies; and JioTV, which allows users to watch more than 500 TV channels. All of these services are available at no additional charge to Jio Platforms subscribers. It costs less than $2 a month to be a Jio subscriber.

The launch of JioMeet today comes as tens of millions of Indians are working from home and using video conferencing services for work and to stay in touch with friends.

Zoom app, currently the most popular video conference service in India, on Android had about 35 million monthly active users in the third week of July, up from about 4 million users during the same period in March, according to mobile insights firm App Annie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. (Android powers nearly 99% of smartphones in India.)

#apps, #asia, #google-meet, #india, #jio-platforms, #microsoft-teams, #reliance-jio, #reliance-jio-platforms, #zoom

Google Meet shows up in Gmail inboxes, a few years too late

Google Meet — the video call service formerly known as Hangouts Meet, which itself was an offshoot from Hangouts, not to be confused with Google Chat, Duo, Allo, or any of the company’s other communications products — is finally making its debut on Gmail accounts, where it probably should have been since 2010.

Everyone with a Google account has access to Meet as of a few days ago, when Google removed most of the restrictions that made the product a go-to for many business customers but a non-starter for everyone else.

As they announced then, anyone with a Google account can make calls with up to 100 people, for up to an hour. The option to do so will appear on the sidebar, where one will can start a meeting and invite participants in a pop-up browser window — it’s quite fast and a dial-in and PIN are provided immediately — or join an existing meeting using a code.

It’s a welcome improvement, to be sure. But it’s also something that on reflection one wonders why Google hasn’t had there for years.

Despite running one of the world’s largest communications platforms and owning its most popular operating system, person to person communication has always been something of a puzzler for Google. Every couple years the company debuts a new and ill-advised app or service that’s confusingly branded, competes with its existing offerings, and isn’t even available for most people to use. Sometimes they even do two at once!

This experimental approach (unsuccessfully aping the old, weird Google) wasn’t a problem when there was the only pressure was the usual trickle of enterprise and startup innovations that Google could easily bat down from its high seat. But the coronavirus pandemic produced a tsunami of demand for video calling that suddenly threw the competition into gear.

As we have seen, Zoom emerged as the dark horse winner, despite serious security issues and other general murkiness.

The secret was, of course, simplicity: one or two clicks and it “just works.” While Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and other major tech companies have seen huge gains, and startup efforts like Houseparty and Discord have also spiked, Zoom’s ubiquity is such that people speak of “doing a Zoom call on Google” or “we can do a Zoom meeting on Skype.” It’s the ultimate insult.

As a strategy by Google to acquire users, this expansion of Meet is months too late, and as an attempt to salvage its dignity, years too late. After the execution of Reader and the utter boondoggle that was Google+, the company will forever be considered as having a gun in each hand, one pointed at users and one at its own foot. Sorry, do I seem bitter?

At the same time, it’s quite clear that Google has the capability to create a simple, cross-platform, universal video calling service. After all, it offered one for years: GChat.

It’s not really clear what happened to this popular, practical service, which unsurprisingly lived exactly where Meets now lives, and provided a similar (if simpler) service. Now is not the time to reopen the case of GChat or the dozens of other beloved products Google has sent to the big datacenter in the sky, but it’s worth considering what might have been the case had the company simply, as it said it wanted to, “put more wood behind fewer arrows” and made that service the one, developing and adding to it as it has with Maps and Search.

GChat would be open in every browser (in the omnipresent Gmail tab), able to launch personal or business meetings instantly (as Meet can now), and it would be on every phone as well, the way Google’s most popular apps, like Maps, are. As a (mostly) trusted, presumably encrypted chat and occasional multimedia app, it could have taken the wind out of WhatsApp and Messenger’s sails, rivaled iMessage, and perhaps even given rise to the more decentralized social network the company seemed to want to build some years back.

Ah well. “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’ ”

Enjoy Meet, if you can, and while it lasts.

#google, #google-meet, #hangouts, #hangouts-meet, #tc, #video-chat, #zoom

Daily Crunch: Google Meet goes free for everyone

Google is making a big push for its Zoom competitor, Samsung outlines how COVID-19 is reshaping consumer demand and Ford delays its autonomous vehicle plans.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for April 29, 2020.

1. Google is making Meet free for everyone

Meet is Google’s video meeting tool for businesses. (Hangouts is the company’s free consumer equivalent.) Until now, you could participate in a Meet call without being a paying user, but you needed a paid G Suite account to start calls.

Meanwhile, Google’s parent company Alphabet reported that its business grew more than expected in the first quarter of the year — but with a “significant slowdown” in March.

2. Samsung expects COVID-19 to hurt smartphone and TV sales, but increase demand for memory

More earnings news: In its first-quarter report, Samsung said it expects the COVID-19 pandemic to continue impacting its business for the rest of the year, cutting into sales for smartphones and TVs, but increasing demand for PCs, servers and memory chips as people continue to work or study from home.

3. Ford postpones autonomous vehicle service until 2022

“Understanding customer behavior is a critically important part of building a new mobility service built around trust and making people’s lives easier,” the company said. In fact, Ford said COVID-19 has already affected consumer behavior in China, prompting the automaker to turn to online sales.

4. As COVID-19 misinformation grows, YouTube brings video fact-checking to the US

Fact-check articles will begin appearing in relevant search results, using information pulled from a dozen or so third-party publishers, including The Dispatch, FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and The Washington Post Fact Checker.

5. A conversation with Sasha Astafyeva, Atomico’s new consumer-focused investment partner

We caught up with Astafyeva for a conversation that spanned the coronavirus crisis’ impact on her area of interest, new trends during and potentially after lockdown and how it feels to be a consumer-focused investor in turbulent times. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Spotify Q1 beats on sales of $2B with monthly active users up 31% to 286M

The coronavirus may be decimating some corners of the economy, but the impact on the digital music — as evidenced by the world’s biggest music streaming company — appears to be minimal.

7. Smart contact lens startup Mojo Vision raises $51M

Mojo Vision’s technology still felt early-stage when we met with the company back at CES — but the demos we did see were enough to convince us that there really could be something to the California startup’s smart content lens technology.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #google, #google-meet, #tc