- The Google Meet voice cancellation that Google announced a few weeks ago is finally rolling out to some G Suite users.
- Google explains that its algorithms can discern between speech and noises that should be phased out during video calls, and it will eliminate the unwanted sounds.
- Google processes the sound data in the cloud but says the information is secured and won’t be used to train the AI that handles voice cancellation.
The novel coronavirus forced hundreds of millions of people to spend more time indoors than ever before. Social distancing measures put a stop to pretty much any kind of event that involved being in the same room with other people. That meant millions of people lost their jobs as a result, and millions more started working from home. At the same time, millions of children around the world started going to school from home. That’s where video conferencing apps came in handy, with Zoom taking the lead. The app became a hit with users who required a straightforward video conferencing tool during the pandemic, but also with people who wanted an easy way to stay in touch with friends and family. Zoom ran into a series of security and privacy issues, which only helped its competitors. Google rebranded its video chat app as Meet, and Facebook released its Rooms alternative that works with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. This all happened in a matter of weeks, and some of these products received several upgrades during this time. But Google’s brand new noise cancellation feature that has been added to Google Meet is easily one of the best new additions — and you really have to check it out.
Google announced the feature back in April when it revealed the noise cancellation feature would roll out to G Suite Enterprise and G Suite Enterprise for Education users. The feature is exactly what you think it is; Google is looking to remove all the background noise that can hinder a video call experience, and only allow your voice to get through.
It’s only early June, but Google already has the feature ready to be used inside Meet video calls. The “denoiser” uses artificial intelligence to distinguish human voices and other sounds so it can block any noise that shouldn’t be heard during a video call. The feature has been in the works for years, with Google training its algorithms tell background sounds apart from speech with the help of video calls between Googlers, as well as YouTube videos.
“It started off as a project from our conference rooms,” G Suite director of product management Serge Lachapelle told VentureBeat. “I’m based out of Stockholm. When we meet with the U.S., it’s usually around this time [morning in the U.S., evening in Europe]. You’ll hear a lot of cling, cling, cling, and weird little noises of people eating their breakfast or eating their dinners or taking late meetings at home and kids screaming and all. It was really that that triggered off this project about a year and a half ago.”
Google then started deploying the tool internally in December and January, right around the time the world learned about the novel coronavirus threat. “When people started working at home, at Google, the use of it increased a lot. And then we got a good confirmation that ‘Wow, we’ve got something here. Let’s go.'” the exec said.
The feature works with several sounds that may pop up while you’re engaged in a video call from home, and a button inside Meet’s settings is all that’s needed to enable noise cancellation. It neutralizes children’s voices in the background, vacuums, doors slamming, fidgeting noises, and even some musical instruments. It also works with other languages, not just English. The people at the other end of the call will have no idea that you’re cancelling annoying noises around you. However, it’s up to a user to enable noise cancellation for his or her chats. That means the receiver won’t be able to control the sender’s background noise.
To pull it off, the voice encrypted voice data is passed through Google’s data centers and then re-encrypted to be sent back to the meeting. It’s not end-to-end encryption, but the Google exec said the data is never accessible outside the denoiser tool. The cloud is needed to process the sound data quickly so that users don’t experience any lag. Lachapelle told VentureBeat that Google won’t use any of the audio data to retrain its AI or improve the algorithms.
The best way to really see how well the new Google Meet feature works is to watch the video below, as demoed by Lachappelle.