If Google Meet’s new AI tools are as good as advertised, you might never need to pay attention to another meeting again — or even show up at all. At its Cloud Next conference today, Google revealed a handful of new AI-powered features coming soon to Meet.
One of the biggest new AI-enabled features is the ability for Google’s Duet AI to take notes in real time: click “take notes for me,” and the app will capture a summary and action items as the meeting is going on. If you’re late to a meeting, Google will be able to show you a mid-meeting summary so that you can catch up on what happened. During the call, you’ll be able to talk privately with a Google chatbot to go over details you might have missed. And when the meeting is over, you can save the summary to Docs and come back to it after the fact; it can even include video clips of important moments.
Recaps will only be useful if they can accurately capture what happened during a meeting — which is very much TBD
These AI-enabled features could be a way to free up people from being dedicated meeting-note scribes and make it easier to catch up both during and after calls. Microsoft and Zoom also clearly think this is a good idea: they’ve rolled out AI-powered meeting summaries of their own. But the recaps will only be useful if they can accurately capture what happened during a meeting, and given that AI is prone to making mistakes, Google might have a lot to prove to earn that trust. We’ll see soon enough: the note-taking feature will come to Google’s Workspace Labs in the coming months.
Another new Meet feature lets Duet “attend” a meeting on your behalf. On a meeting invite, you can click an “attend for me” button, and Google can auto-generate some text about what you might want to discuss. Those notes will be viewable to attendees during the meeting so that they can discuss them.
This could be another handy time-saving feature. If you’re double-booked or suddenly have to bail on a meeting because of something going on in your life, I can see the value in sharing some notes about what you’d planned to bring up. But I worry that people might use this feature to dodge meetings they really should attend and add an unnecessary burden to the people who actually show. (If everyone in the meeting sends their AI assistant, I’m told, Meet will figure it out and quickly end the call.) This feature is a little ways out, arriving sometime next year to Labs.
Google has really turned things around with Meet in the last couple of years. In the early days of the pandemic, it rebranded the app from “Hangouts Meet” to “Google Meet” and has added a ton of features in the more than three years since. We use Meet here at Vox Media, and I much prefer it to Zoom. But I figured there wasn’t much room for Meet (or other video conferencing apps) to grow anymore.
According to Dave Citron, Google’s senior director of product for Meet, the company is just getting started. “The Meet product is really a turnaround story in a lot of ways,” Citron says. “Now we’re spending that same deep energy we spent over the last few years to get to enterprise-grade to be the best cutting-edge video conferencing product on the market.”
Citron thinks there have been three “innovation eras” for video conferencing. The first was the pandemic, when many people used video conferencing for the first time. The second was the return to a hybrid work environment, which many companies have switched to. The third, as Citron tells it, is right now: “this inflection point that we hit over the last eight months with large language models and diffusion models.” That’s why Google is infusing AI into all of its products, so it’s no surprise that AI is coming to Meet.
To help combat the exhaustion of staring at dozens of video tiles on a Meet call, Google is also adding dynamic layouts that offer different sizes and shapes for those tiles. Tiles will still generally be rectangular, but if a bunch of attendees are in a conference room, that tile might be bigger so that you don’t have to squint at a tiny square to see who’s sitting around the table. There are a bunch of smaller Meet features coming, too, including one that adds a teleprompter above your Google Slides presentations while on a Meet call. (All are coming to Labs next year.)
Ultimately, Citron says Meet is still working on the same overall goal as before. “We really want meetings to feel like they’re bringing people together into the same room regardless of where you are and your device,” he says. “Regardless of your connection speed, your camera quality, your microphone quality.” It’s a tall order. How do you make a meeting experience that’s easy to use, works well across desktop and mobile, on Wi-Fi or cellular, with headphones, speakers, and microphones of varying quality, and lets you get work done like you would in a face-to-face conversation?
Google has gotten pretty good at the fundamentals — but that’s about it. Now, Citron and his team have to prove that AI truly can take video chat to an entirely new level. Even if that might mean fewer video chats.