Maybe this sounds familiar. You just logged on to your fourth Zoom meeting of the day. As you wait for everyone to arrive, a few colleagues are typing on their keyboard. Another is eating pretzels. In the background of another, a dog barks. Of course, you can hear your own children just outside your home office door, and based on the increasing volume level, you know everyone else will too.
Adjusting to a world where everything is a video meeting has meant learning to deal with some things we never experienced in an office environment. Very few people were experts in how to look and sound their best on a video meeting. We've all been making it up as we go, which means that all of those background noises are a regular occurrence we've all learned to live with.
Unless you are using Google Meet, which on Tuesday announced that it's rolling out active noise canceling. Google did a demonstration for VentureBeat, and based on the video below, there are still a few things to work out, but honestly, first impressions are that it's really good.
Google says that the technology will use A.I.-powered machine learning to process your sound via Google Cloud and reduce background noise. The company used thousands of hours of its own meetings to train the feature to detect all of those distracting sounds.
It might not seem like a big deal, but considering every video meeting I've ever attended has the same problem, I think it is. Because people connect from anywhere, often they aren't in a nice quiet environment. Since most of us are working from home right now, those of us with children can't remember what "nice quiet environment" even means.
Add to that the fact that many videoconferencing services automatically change the video feed to whichever participant starts to speak. That means that if several attendees have noisy backgrounds, the main video may be switching constantly, which is a real distraction.
Google says the feature is rolling out first to Education and Enterprise G Suite customers and will be available initially on the web interface, though it will eventually come to iOS and Android.
Zoom may still be the simplest and most commonly used videoconferencing tool, but there's no question that Google (and Microsoft, for that matter) has no interest in leaving things to the status quo. Google has rolled out updates like grid-view to incorporate many of the top features of Zoom, and has capitalized on a series of privacy and security-related issues.
Zoom has certainly worked to address those concerns, but Google has made a point of stepping up the competition, even making its service free to all users. Now, it's also addressing one of the most obnoxious and annoying problems with video meetings. Which, if you happen to spend a lot of time staring at a video screen, might sound very good to you.