For a while there, ChromeOS users had no choice but to watch from afar as users of other desktop platforms enjoyed background blur and video effects on Zoom and other video conferencing apps. However, in 2020 – mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a high demand for using video as a means to communicate with others – Google finally rolled out web-based background blur and video effects to Google Meet.
As these were web-based, they didn’t necessarily need that much processing power and were therefore able to be used even in lower spec’d Chromebooks. Recently though, Google announced that background effects for Google Meet on the Web will now look more accurate thanks to background and foreground separation improvements. This will affect effects such as background blur, background replacement, and the recently launched immersive backgrounds and styles.
These video effect improvements are meant to run on-device with an option to automatically switch to processing them on the cloud in order to optimize the effect’s quality. However, the cloud processing option is only available to a select few Google Workspace tiers, and will not reach personal Google accounts. This may be part of the reason why, according to to a new code change, Google is working on a flag to enable on-device background blur for video conferencing on Chromebooks (#vc-background-blur).
This commit was found by 9to5Google, which found yet another commit alluding to this feature being powered by machine learning, meaning that it will only be available on newer ChromeOS devices —namely the 11th Gen and 12th Gen Intel Chromebooks Google has been testing this feature on. There is also mention of two other background effects that will be enabled, such as “Portrait Relighting” – a feature of the Pixel Camera and Google Photos that adds a simulated directional light source – and “Auto-Framing,” which keeps you centered in the frame during the call.
It is still early stages for this feature though, with the commit still marked as “Work in Progress,” and not merged yet to be tested in Canary. This means it might be a little while before we start to see this show up on Chromebooks, and the flag may only show up on the newer devices with specs that can handle that much processing power. Regardless, it’s great to see Google once again bringing features to Chromebooks that push the boundaries of what most people think Chromebooks are capable of. Can’t wait to try this.