Forget Zoom: Google Meet just got a killer upgrade it can't match

(Image credit: Google)

Background noise is one of the most irritating things in video calls, and while participants can mute their microphones it’s a little tricky to do so when they may be expected to speak a lot. But Google has plans to solve this problem. 

The search giant has announced a clever noise cancellation feature for the Google Meet video conferencing service. The new feature uses artificial intelligence tech to smartly filter out background noise from someone’s actual speech, which could make some video calls a lot less frustrating. 

By training an AI model with recordings of Google’s own internal meeting, the Meet noise cancellation feature has learned how to detect what is background noise and what is legitimate audio from a meeting’s participant. Having learned the difference, the AI tech can now filter out distracting noise and help make a person’s audio sound clearer, at least going by Google’s demonstration video. 

However, the clever noise cancellation is being branded as a “denoiser” rather than a means to cancel out background noise altogether. If someone not in a Meet meeting but within range of a participant’s microphone starts talking, there’s a good chance the AI tech won’t filter it out, as it could consider such background nose to be legitimate speech.

But Google is apparently working on improving the smart feature with the goal of tweaking the machine learning algorithm behind it to make it more effective. However, that doesn’t mean Google will be going through all your video calls; the data will be encrypted and only used in the denoiser process rather than be accessible by other Google services and tech.

The noise cancellation feature has already started rolling out to Meet for G Suite Enterprise customers, but it should also make its way to the users of the free Google Meet service, including those who use the web, Android or iOS versions. Once it’s rolled out, the noise cancellation will be enabled by default but you can also access it in the Meet audio settings where you can toggle the feature on or off.

With noise cancellation, Meet can once again snap at the heels of Zoom, which has enjoyed surging growth amidst the coronavirus lockdown. Zoom has noise cancellation to filter out loud keyboard taps and other small background noises, but it doesn’t appear as advanced as Google’s AI-powered tech. So that could help give Meet the edge when it comes to choosing the best Zoom alternatives.

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.