A group Google Duo call on a Nest Hub Max smart display | Photo: Google
Google is expanding the ways you can make video calls on smart displays powered by Google Assistant with new support for group calling in Google Meet and Duo. The new video group calling abilities will be available on the Nest Hub Max and other Assistant smart displays with cameras starting today.
Just like you can do with one-on-one calls, it’s possible to start a group call from a smart display with either your voice or by tapping the screen. Groups that are created in the Duo mobile app will be accessible on the smart display and can support up to 32 people at a time. The smart display will show up to eight participants, including yourself, at a time. If you’re using the Nest Hub Max, the auto-framing features will still work so you can move around freely and still be centered in-camera to other callers.
The Google Meet group calling support is more designed for work meetings and other large groups. It supports up to 100 participants in a call, and you can join meetings via typing in the meeting code (after saying “Hey Google, join a meeting”) or through a calendar entry that’s synced with the smart display. If you start a new meeting from the smart display, a push notification will be sent to your phone that you can use to share the invitation with others. Google says the Meet integration does not yet support the auto-framing features of the Nest Hub Max, and it won’t be available on other Assistant smart displays at launch.
For those who use G Suite accounts and have Meet meetings on those calendars, Google has an option for admins to enable beta access to the Assistant on those accounts. The primary account on the device will have to be the G Suite account in order for it to pull up calendar entries. Google tells me that it’s working on ways to make switching between a G Suite account and a personal account on a smart display more seamless in the future.
Finally, Assistant smart displays and speakers are also getting a new “speed dial” feature called household contacts that lets you pin preferred contacts for easier access. Once set up, it will let anyone with access to the smart display call those contacts via voice or by tapping their name on the display’s screen.
It’s clear that Google prioritized rolling out these features based on how much video calling is being used during the COVID-19 pandemic and its related social distancing lockdowns, and they should make it easier to use Google’s video calling services if you do have a smart display in your home. But much like Facebook’s Portal and Amazon’s Echo Show, they are limited to Google’s services and if you use Zoom or one of the many other video calling options available now, they won’t be of much use to you, smart display or not. Hopefully Google will figure out a way to make other services available on smart displays in the future, but I’m not holding my breath.