Google's latest attempt at meeting room gear focuses on simplicity

Joanna Estrada
September 16, 2020

But today, the company is announcing new Google Meet videoconferencing hardware - though the hardware is designed for conference rooms, not for your home. All sizes include a Meet AI-computing unit running Chrome OS - stocked with an Intel Core i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs - that automatically controls the image crop for a wide-angle camera provided by Huddly (1080p for small and medium, 4K for large), and a Smart Audio Bar with Tensor processors to deliver TrueVoice noise cancelation and clarity. After so many software updates Google has now unveiled hardware dedicated to Google Meet.

Companies interested in adding one of the Series One kits to their conference rooms will soon be pre-order one. The kits are supposedly built for large, sparsely populated rooms or many smaller meeting spaces. (Unlike daily active users, "meeting participants" can count the same user a few times.) Zoom is trying to extend its video conferencing dominance using hardware.

Google has had to play catchup with the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others, both of which are already staples in the conference room and boast a litany of hardware partnerships for AV professionals and IT departments to choose from.

Series one features TrueVoice®, their multi-channel noise cancellation and voice amplification technology that minimizes distractions to ensure every voice is heard. This is similar to Google Meet's AI cloud denoiser we detailed in June.

This means cameras can help keep track of the number of people in the room, and group product manager TJ Varghese briefly said this could extend to "any new types of requirements, be it social distancing requirements etc". "And every single microphone gets processed individually so we can truly separate human voice from other noise in the room". Google promises that distracting sounds, like typing, shuffling, and snacking, "are filtered out completely, but voices are crystal clear". Google said its system recognizes the number of people in the room "based on physical bodies and other attributes and sound", and that it doesn't use face scanning. also said that each kit can "anonymously sense the number of participants in the meeting to help monitor room utilization and maintain safety protocols". The camera's ability to frame people of different races, however, is a work in progress.

Varghese also said the company is aware of issues in cameras rendering darker skintones. "I think this is something that the industry is finally acknowledged and is accepting and we are actively working with partners to develop algorithms that can do this", he said.

The company's design intent looks not to the current environment where everyone is appearing at meetings in their pajamas, but one where parts of the workforce are cycled into the office and group meetings are held in large rooms with socially-distanced participants.

Depending on what version of the Series One hardware you purchase, you'll may also be able to control meetings via a rechargeable remote control or a 10.1-inch display. According to The Verge, the Google Series One kits will cost $2,699, $2,999, and $3,999.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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