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Google Duo takes on Zoom with fun Snapchat-like filters

Google Duo family mode
(Image credit: Google)

Take that, Zoom. Serving notice, Snapchat. Google Duo is adding even more new features to its product to better compete in the exploding video calling and conferencing space. 

Group video calls have become a necessity in these pandemic times, both for work meetings and for family and friends to catch up. Zoom has rocketed in number of users and become almost ubiquitous, thanks to its grid-like gallery view. But other services are nipping at its heels and Google Duo wants to be one of them. To that end, it's adding the ability to hold group video calls on the web and a family mode with doodles and special effects.

These new features are coming on top of Google Duo's huge upgrade a few weeks ago, which introduced snapshots and a new video codec technology to improve call quality and reliability. The company recently increased the maximum size of group calls to 12 participants and has promised to up it further to 32 in the coming weeks.

Soon, Duo on the web will support group calls, which were previously limited to the  iOS and Android apps. The new functionality will start as a preview in Chrome. Plus, hosts can send group call link to anyone with a Google account.

There's also a new layout that lets you see group members in a six-person square grid, with a carousel of faces you can scroll through. 

Family mode allows users to draw on their screens in real time and add filters, a la Snapchat. In a blog post, Google Duo product manager Humberto Castaneda explained that family mode "lets you doodle on video calls for everyone to see and also surprise them with fun effects and masks that transform you into astronauts, cats and more." The first filters will roll out in time for Mother's Day this weekend, like a terrifying one that will turn your poor mother into a flower creature.

The addition of family mode, with is fun filters, could help Google Duo stand out from its sibling, Google Meet, which is now free and also added a grid view option.