Google has rapidly updated its videoconferencing Google Meet software, as the COVID-19 pandemic has meant more people rely on it now than ever before. But today, the company is announcing new Google Meet videoconferencing hardware — though the hardware is designed for conference rooms, not for your home.
The new Series One hardware, designed by Google but made in partnership with Lenovo, has a number of different pieces. There’s a 12MP Smart Camera and, for bigger conference rooms, a 20.3MP Smart Camera XL. Google says the devices can automatically frame participants in a meeting and sense how many people are in a room without using facial recognition, as well as digitally pan, tilt, and zoom.
There’s also a Smart Audio Bar, which has a 2.5-inch woofer, a one-inch tweeter, and eight beam-forming microphones that Google claims can process “up to 44 channels simultaneously.” Google says they can enhance human voices and filter out sounds like typing and noisy snack bags thanks to a technology the company calls “TrueVoice.”
The whole setup is powered by a Chrome OS-based “Meet Compute System,” and Google tells The Verge that both the Compute System and the Smart Audio Bar have two Google Edge Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) on board to help process video and audio during meetings. Depending on what kit you buy, you’ll also be able to control your meetings with a rechargeable remote control or a 10.1-inch touchscreen, and both of those support Google Assistant for hands-free meeting controls.
This isn’t the first conference room hardware designed to work with Google Meet. Asus revealed new Google Meet gear for conference rooms in May, for example. But the Series One hardware is fully designed by Google, and features like the noise cancellation in the Smart Audio Bar and the automatic framing done by the Smart Camera seem like they could be handy. And this also isn’t Google’s first workplace tech — the company introduced Jamboard, a giant 4K digital whiteboard, in 2017.
For companies that are interested in decking out their conference rooms with this new gear, though, the Series One kits won’t come cheap. The “Small Room Kit,” which comes with a Smart Camera, Smart Audio Bar, Compute System, and remote control, costs a whopping $2,699. You can pay $2,999 for the Medium Room Kit and $3,999 for the Large Room Kit, which offer more hardware. The Series One hardware will be available in two colors — “charcoal” (black) and “chalk” (white) — and Google says the kits will be available for preorder “soon.”