Google Workspace updates to improve hybrid and flexible working

Placeholder while article actions are loading

Google is rolling out updates to its suite of productivity tools as it seeks to capitalize on a more flexible future of work.

Many companies are changing the way office workers work since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, allowing partial or full remote work in some cases. As a result, technology companies like Zoom, Cisco and Google have rolled out products and functions help with collaboration. Google’s latest update to its Workspace tools was unveiled Wednesday at its annual I/O developer conference.

“We [are enabling] to be effective no matter where they work or learn from,” said Javier Soltero, general manager and vice president of Google Workspace. “There are different ways to get work done, and not everyone will click the same every step of the way.”

Hybrid work is messy and exhausting for many

Soltero said the latest additions to Workspace should help people as they embrace “hybrid” work, or work part-time in their offices, a shift he says will remain here. They include features to help employees track interactions, easily create meeting notes, and better represent themselves in video calls.

Here are the four things you need to know about the latest Google Workspace features.

Need notes from the meeting? No problem.

Later this year, the company’s video calling service, Google Meet, will be able to automatically schedule meetings for selected users. When a host turns on transcription, all participants are notified, just like when a meeting is recorded. Then Google’s artificial intelligence will transcribe the meeting, attributing comments to individual users or as an aggregate for those joining from a meeting room. The meeting transcript is automatically saved as a Google Doc, which can then be shared by the host and viewed or edited by users at the same time.

“One of the hardest parts of multi-person video calling is people talking over each other, and in hybrid form [environments], that’s going to be more difficult,” said Soltero. “Transcripts allow each participant to not only see what was discussed, but refer to it later.”

Stay informed of the latest conversations

To achieve a similar goal, Workspace will be rolling out summaries for its group conversation platform, Spaces, in the coming months. The feature summarizes in a few sentences conversations that a user may have missed due to being away or doing other tasks. The summary in some cases links what was said to who said it or gives a total of the topic. Users can then decide whether to scroll down for more details.

“The effect of providing that summary [is] the person feels aware of what is going on and is comfortable with skipping the details or motivated to start following them,” Soltero said.

The feature is expected to roll out initially to English-speaking customers using enterprise, business, educational, essential, and frontline versions of Google Workspace. The company expects to expand this capability to Google Meet next year.

Look good and sound good during video calls

Google also wants to improve how people look and sound on Google Meet. In the coming months, it will introduce options called portrait light and portrait recovery that aim to improve low-quality video streams and light users as if they were in a studio. And Google says the “de-reverb” option will improve sound quality, for example by eliminating echoes in large rooms.

All three features are available for certain versions of Workspace.

“This idea… is to make sure people can be seen or heard, and use AI to do that,” Soltero said. “It’s all in the service of ensuring equality during a video call.”

More security and collaboration features

Also on Google Meet, users will be able to sync and play video or audio over the coming months so that all participants can see or hear it at the same time.

Finally, Google is extending its phishing and malware protection that exists in Gmail to Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides to warn users about suspicious links and redirect them back to safety. The protections are expected to be available to all users later this year.

Soltero said Google will continue to work on features and products that serve the next era of work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.