Google's joint video and voice chatting application, Duo, is finally receiving an update in the US that allows multiple participants to take part in a conversation, on top of the previous one-on-one features, based on widespread recent reports.
Accessing the feature is relatively straightforward but requires the latest update to the app, which will take some time to land everywhere. Swiping to the contacts section of the UI, users will find a new "Create group" button that launches the group calling.
The overall UI seems to have received a slight facelift too. Users will now reportedly swipe down to access the feature and the option to "Invite friends" appears on another new button to the left of the latest addition. Just above that is the familiar slim, card-shaped search box for finding a specific contact. Frequent contacts are found just above that.
The new Google Duo functionality is said to be available not just in the US either but has additionally been spotted in areas of Canada and India as well as Indonesia.
Limited potential ...for now
While other video calling applications from Google in the enterprise sector such as Hangouts Meet support up to 250 participants all at once, that's one area of the new Duo feature that seems to fall well short of what many might expect. The update to the consumer-level app only currently allows a total of four users in a single call -- that's the user who initiated the call and three of their contacts.
In late April, Google Duo lead Justin Uberti tweeted out that the group calling features would be "ramping up slowly," likely to allow ample testing and quality control. Based on other reported leaks from testing on the platform, as many as eight users might be able to take part in a group call in the near future.
That doesn't mean the feature will be perfect. Another area this is probably going to differ from comparable chat apps is in how users can be added, based on the same leaked testing. Once a session has been initiated, for example, no new users can be added to join the group, so some coordination will be required for users who want to host a group video call.
Each of those limits on Duo's functionality will likely be tested and pushed back moving forward.
Coincidentally released just in time
Coinciding with the rollout of group calls in Google’s dedicated video chat application -- albeit not necessarily directly related -- the search giant also just announced at least one gadget that will be well-suited to take advantage of the feature. Namely, that's the companies recently rebranded Google Nest Hub Max, unveiled at this year's Google I/O 2019 event.
One of the most prominent ways Nest Hub Max differs from the standard Google Nest Hub (formerly, Google Home Hub) is its inclusion of a wide-angle lens and AI that keeps users and others in focus during use. That's also useful when the gadget is used as part of a wider security camera network or by itself for that same purpose but the automated focusing will be handy in video calls as well.
Google Nest Hub Max additionally, as its branding implies, takes cues from the Google Home Max speaker in that it's packed with more powerful audio hardware and optimizations embedded under a bigger 10-inch display panel.
Those features make the device ideal for use with Google Duo and the company touted as much when it was announced. So the fact that the Duo group calling features are rolling out now in regions where the device will be sold may not be a coincidence at all.