Google Duo will soon let you make group calls in Chrome

Google’s Duo video chat app will soon let you make video calls on the web, the search company announced today. That could be a way to catch up with your friends and family while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, though group call participants will need a Google account to join, Google says. The feature is rolling out as a preview in in the coming weeks.

There’s also a new “family mode” in Duo, which lets you draw on the screen in real time and apply Snapchat-like masks and effects on yourself. Duo will hide the buttons to mute and hang up while you’re in family mode so that you can doodle and play around without needing to worry about accidentally dropping the call, Google says. Family mode is available if you’re using Duo while signed in with your Google account. Here’s an image of what it looks like:

The Snapchat-like masks and effects will also be available in one-on-one calls you make on Android and iOS, Google says. The first ones are launching this week, including this terrifying mask that turns you into a flower in celebration of Mother’s Day:

Last month, Google said it would be rolling out the AV1 video codec to Duo calls to improve video call quality, introducing a side-by-side photo mode, and upping the Duo group call size from eight to 12. You can see a lot of Google Duo’s features in action in this promotional video:

Duo now falls under the purview of Javier Soltero, who is the VP and general manager of G Suite, Google announced yesterday. That means he now oversees Duo and Google Meet, Google’s other video calling service, but Soltero doesn’t have any immediate plans to change or integrate any of Google’s messaging and communications apps, he told my colleague Dieter Bohn yesterday. Meet has historically been a business-focused app, but Google made it free for everyone last week.

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