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Google Meet adds picture-in-picture mode, live emoji reactions

Google is focusing on improving collaboration as part of a suite of updates to Workspace apps such as Google Spaces, Google Meet, and Google Voice. The updates include a picture-in-picture mode for Google Meet, as well as live emoji reactions during meetings and much more.

The updates are driven by the forecasted return of workers to the office as part of a shift from work-from-home environments to a hybrid in-person workflow that is being adopted by technology companies as restrictions around the global pandemic have begun to ease. Google claims that these updates will make connecting among larger teams easier and improve collaboration equity.

A screenshot shows how Google Meet will support live reactions.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

For those who prefer to work via videoconference, Google is enabling a number of new features in its Google Meet video chat app. Google will be introducing in-meeting reactions, picture-in-picture mode that will appeal to multitaskers, companion mode, and a new Q&A and polls feature for livestreams.

“For most companies working in a hybrid model, meetings typically include in-person and remote attendees, and it’s essential that each hybrid meeting experience is unified and productive for all,” the company explained in a blog post. “In light of this, we continue to make enhancements to Google Meet to ensure that all video meetings are secure and inclusive no matter the location or device preference.”

To make it easier to express themselves, Google will allow attendees in Meet to provide feedback to speakers and other participants with emoji through a feature called in-meeting reactions. You can communicate using an emoji for a heart or a thumbs-up, as an example, and the reactions can appear in the video tile.

A screenshot shows how Google is bringing picture-in-picture mode to Google Meet.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Meet experience will also be coming to Google’s office productivity apps. Soon, you’ll be able to start a meeting and bring it to Docs, Sheets, and Slides to collaborate in real time while on the Google Meet video call. The feature will be rolling out in the coming weeks.

“Users will be able to quickly start a meeting and bring it to a document, spreadsheet, or presentation, and they can present this content to all the meeting attendees,” Google explained. “This enables everyone in the meeting to collaborate in real time while having a conversation — all from the same tab.”

For multitaskers, Google will also enable picture-in-picture mode for Chrome browsers. This will allow presenters to see a floating window with up to four video tiles of meeting attendees while they multitask.

And to keep livestream users engaged, Google will also be adding new features, like Q&A and polls.

The company is careful to note that although a lot of meaningful collaboration will happen in real time, there are also situations where asynchronous connections can be just as important. It has made updates to its Spaces portal with inline threading.

A screen shot shows Inline threads, which are coming to Google Spaces.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

And to make collaboration more seamless, users will also be able to invite others to join Spaces across an organization. Google is increasing team sizes in Spaces to 8,000 users, and that number will again increase to 25,000 by the end of the year. This will help make Spaces more useful for larger teams and organizations.

“Strong team cultures are built on trust and psychological safety,” Google added. “That’s why we’re adding features that improve content moderation, the ability to designate managers and guidelines for specific Spaces, and new admin capabilities to delete Spaces.”

Search will also be improved within Spaces as part of the update. This will help surface the most relevant information.

Finally, with voice communication, Google is adding some new capabilities to Google Voice, including SIP Link, which will be coming later this year, and on-demand and automated call-recording features for Google Voice Standard and Premier plans.

Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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