The coronavirus epidemic has brought almost nothing but suffering, pain, fear, and destruction. Despite the fact that the issue of a pandemic is still relevant, humanity is striving for a long-lost sense of normality. Sports are resumed, schools are cautiously reopening, visitors are patronizing their favorite eateries again. And the typical corporate office is increasingly resorting to pre-quarantine procedures. But for many of these offices, there is one significant difference: conference rooms are increasingly becoming virtual. Google is ready to respond to this request with a video conferencing suite that brings AI to the game and promises to make virtual meetings even easier, Tech Xplore reports.
Zoom took the lead early on as the tool of choice for those who prefer digital meetings. More than half of Fortune 500 companies used Zoom just prior to the pandemic, and that number rose in early 2020 as 300 million meeting attendees registered on the video service.
But competition from Zoom’s biggest competitor, Google, has been fierce. By mid-spring this year, Google announced the addition of 3 million daily users of its Google Meet teleconferencing tool, up 50% from early March.
New to Google Meet Series One is a versatile package that includes a high-definition smart camera; an audio panel with eight built-in microphones, a woofer (responsible for low frequencies of sound) and a tweeter (responsible for high frequencies of sound), as well as a sleek touchscreen controller that promises to save the user from a huge amount of wires.
Users can choose between two smart cameras, one with a 20.3MP lens and 4.3x optical zoom, and a simpler one for small meetings with a 12MP lens. Both cameras have 4k resolution.
Smart cameras automatically frame all participants as they speak. The camera automatically zooms out when other people sit down.
Google said the cameras recognize the number of people in a room “based on physical bodies, other attributes, and sound,” and that they can track attendance and, if necessary, “help monitor room usage and maintain security protocols.” For example, you can track social distancing.
The beamforming microphones that accompany the soundbar use artificial intelligence to keep voices crisp and clear, according to Google. Since the AI uses 44 simultaneous audio channels, common distractions such as typing, crackling eateries, animal barking and hiccups, coughing, and other body sounds must be eliminated or significantly reduced.
Google Assistant, a free accessory, lets you start and end meetings with voice commands, and customize your voice and camera settings.
The system uses PoE (Power-over-Ethernet), which means power and Internet connection are carried over the same cable.
The system is not intended for home use unless your personal budget can handle a few thousand dollars. The smallest Google Meet Series One system, which lacks a meeting controller and microphone unit, costs $2,699. The kit with a camera, soundbar, microphone module, and controller costs $300 more. The top-of-the-line version, which comes with an optional soundbar, dual-mic units, and a 20.3MP camera, is recommended for larger rooms and is priced at $3,999.
“We understand very well that the office is changing,” said T.J. Varghese, Google Product Manager. “Traditional conference rooms need to be reconfigured.”
Series One systems are not yet available. Google says they will hit the market “soon”.