Google will allow business and education users on Gmail.com to directly take calls on its video conferencing tool Meet starting Thursday.
The new feature is the first of several features being launched ahead of schedule because of a surge in demand for video conferencing, G Suite head Javier Soltero told Reuters.
Meet, which is available only to schools, businesses and governments and is distinct from the consumer-focused Hangouts tool, has added daily users faster than any other Google service since January.
According to Soltero, more functionalities will be added later this month. Meet will offer a layout displaying up to 16 call participants at once, resembling a popular option on rival Zoom that its users have compared to a grid in the opening sequence of American TV show “Brady Bunch.”
In addition, Meet will improve video quality in dim lighting and filtering of background noise, such as keyboard clicks and slamming doors.
A forthcoming Meet option will let users display a specific tab on their Google Chrome browser, a more granular screen-sharing option than Zoom and others provide.
Google is not charging customers for upgrades to Meet-related features like large video calls during a six-month period ending in September.
Video chatting tools from Microsoft, Zoom Video Communications and Cisco Systems also have reported record growth since lockdowns began.
Last April, Google did detail that Chat conversations, including full-screen rooms, are coming to Gmail. Like the existing Hangouts integration, it would take the form of messaging windows in the bottom-right corner of the screen.