AR Masks, Duo-Style Filters and Effects Added To Google Meet

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Google Meet has announced that it is adding new features to its service. The updates will include new video filters, effects, and augmented reality masks for use of personal calls, both for iOS and Android.

For those looking to make use of these new features, you can access them by clicking the sparkle icon located at the bottom right of the screen when making a call. This will open up a selection of effects that can be used, including colour filters and augmented reality effects that place animations over your face.

These effects will only be available for people using the service on a personal Gmail account. For people who use a Workspace account and need more professional features, there will be a range of blurring and virtual background options available to use.

This new release of features highlights the change in direction Google Meet has been aiming for recently. In the past it has been quite clear that their target user base was enterprise and business. However now it looks like they are opening up their app and aiming for a wider range of consumers. Just last year, Google announced that personal accounts were able to use Meet, when previously it was just for professional use.

However, there is a slight bit of confusion around the Google messaging services, because these new effect releases bring Google Meet very close in application to the consumer-focused chat service that Google provides, which is called Duo.

It seems that this could be the start of the end for Google Duo, with speculation that eventually it will be replaced by Meet entirely. Google Duo was first announced in 2016, as part of a strategy to replace Hangouts, and one half of the company’s strategy for consumer messaging. The other half, Allo, which was Google’s text messaging service, didn’t perform well, but Duo saw some real success.

Since its first inception, more features have been added, including group calling, a web client, story, audio, and video messages. It managed to add all this whilst keeping a simple layout that involved a list of contacts which you tap on to start a call. Duo is also integrated into Google Phone dialer and Google messages, while more recently it has let people contact others via their email address as well. In many ways, Duo is Google’s rival to FaceTime.

But despite the success of Duo, there is a large amount of crossover between Duo and Meet which it is speculated will be addressed in the near future. Usage of Meet has increased dramatically last year, with Google announcing that at the start of the year, its peak daily usage grew by 30x. Alongside this they surpassed 100 million daily meeting participants. This dramatic increase was all to do with the start of lockdowns around the world and people being forced to work remotely in order to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In the last 15 years, Google has brought out over a dozen messaging services across text, voice and video. Below is a list of the main messaging services that Google has brought out over the years.

  • Email
  • Gmail
  • Messaging
  • Google Talk, Google Plus Huddle, Google Hangouts, Google Allo, Google Chat
  • SMS/RCS services
  • Google Voice, Android Messages app with RCS chat integration
  • Video conferencing services
  • Google Talk, Google Voice, Google Plus Hangouts, Google Duo, Google Meet
  • Collaboration software
  • Google Wave, Google Plus Circles, Google Docs Chat, Google Chat

Out of all of these services the ones that are still in service are Gmail, Google Chat, Google Voice, Android Messages app with RCS chat integration, Google Duo, Google Meet, Google Docs chat and Google Chat.

What all of these ventures show is that Google has approached messaging in a vastly different way to its competitors in the past. This list highlights that instead of bringing out new services and features under the banner of one service, they have instead continued to release more. Comparing this approach to competitors such as WhatsApp, or Apple and the use of iMessage and Facetime, the differences are laid bare.

It is thought that by bringing Google Meet one step close to Duo, this could be the start of a cleaning up of the confusing Google messaging ecosystem. Time will tell how far this goes, but a more concise portfolio certainly could help people communicate more efficiently.