Google is making collaboration more immersive for remote workers

Google is making collaboration more immersive for remote workers

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Google LLC is on a mission to make work collaboration more immersive, hoping that more effective communications will unlock greater innovation and better ideas. In pursuit of this goal, today it announced multiple updates to its suite of productivity tools during Google Cloud Next 2022.

It’s no surprise that many of them involve Google Meet, which is the company’s main videoconferencing tool that facilitates remote meetings. New capabilities here include an extension of Meet’s companion mode to mobile devices. Previously available only on laptops and personal computers, companion mode adds a second meeting screen that enables people to participate more effectively with tools such as screen sharing and chat, without any echo. With today’s update, companion mode is now available on any kind of device.

Adaptive framing is coming to Meet too, giving remote participants better context around what’s happening in the meeting room. Artificial intelligence-powered cameras from Logitech and Huddly can integrate with Meet to detect and frame speakers in such a way that the focus is always on the most suitable spot, Google said. Additional new features in Meet include automatic video framing, automatic transcriptions and the ability to control Slides from directly within the Meet application.

Slides is in fact getting its own update with the new “speaker spotlight” function. Presenters can now create a single view where their video feeds show up within the content they’re presenting, as opposed to appearing off to the side.

Smart canvas gets smarter

Google launched smart canvas last year, describing it as a new product experience that makes apps such as Google Docs, Sheets and Slides more flexible and interactive. One of the key capabilities of smart canvas is that it helps collapse the boundaries between those apps with features such as “smart chips,” pageless mode and automatic summaries.

Today, Google is adding to those capabilities with the launch of smart canvas custom building blocks in Docs, giving users an easy way to build their own templates. In this way, teams will be able to save time on commonly used blocks of writing — such as custom emails, sales pitches and so on — that can be easily accessed with the @ menu.

Meanwhile, smart chips in Sheets are becoming even more useful, with newer ways to collapse the boundaries between datasets, a new timeline view and smart chip data extraction capability, Google said. Finally, Google is adding a new feature called Variables in Google Docs, which provides a way for users to define common data elements such as a client name or contact number, and update it throughout the document by altering its value in just one place.

Extending Google Workspace

In line with Google’s plans to make Workspace the most extensible productivity suite around, Google announced a raft of new integrations and developer tools that will, it hopes, lead to new ways to use its tools alongside third-party applications.

For instance, Google said it’s expanding the smart chips feature to its ecosystem of partners, making it possible for them to view and engage with rich, third-party data in the flow of work, rather than by switching tabs. The likes of Atlassian Corp. Plc, Asana Inc. and Tableau Software are already building new integrations to take advantage of this capability.

Then there are revamped application programming interfaces for Chat and Meet that will enable third-party app developers to access common functions, such as starting meetings or sending messages from a third-party application. Some of the first apps to take advantage of this will be Asana and LumApps, Google said.

There’s also an entirely new Add-on Software Development Kit for Meet, which will make it possible for developers to embed their apps directly within Google’s video conferencing tool. Figma Inc. is already working to take advantage of this, with a coming update that will make it possible for teams to collaborate on its design tools and digital whiteboards from directly within Meet.

One final integration refers to AppSheet and Google Chat. This enables the possibility of intelligent, no-code apps that can integrate directly with Chat, Google said.

Safer work environment

Finally, Google announced a few updates that it said will help better secure remote and hybrid workers in any location. One of the most important looks to be the extension of the data loss prevention feature found in Google Drive and Chrome. Google said this will soon be available in Chat too, giving administrators more specific and granular controls to prevent sensitive data leaks in real time.

Google is also bringing client-side encryption to Gmail and Calendar, helping customers to “strengthen the confidentiality of their data while addressing data sovereignty and compliance requirements.” Finally, Google said it’s adding new Trust Rules in Google Drive, providing admins with more granular controls around what types of content people are allowed to share, both internally and externally.

Image: Google

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