Chrome OS has emerged from the pandemic as a productivity-focused platform that continues evolving to meet the ever-expanding needs of remote workers, students, and consumers alike. Chromebook users now have access to Linux applications, Android apps, powerful online web apps, and even virtual Windows Desktops. With every day that passes, the list of things a Chromebook can’t do grows shorter and shorter. Now, thanks to Intel, future Chrome OS devices could get a new feature that will take your virtual meetings to the next level.
The flag popped up in a recent update to the Canary channel of Chrome OS and it references the ability to enable noise-canceling via the quick settings menu a.k.a. the system tray. After a bit of digging, I unearthed a handful of commits in the Chromium repository related to the new feature but I still wasn’t sure exactly how “noise-canceling” could flesh itself out on a Chromebook. Google Meet already utilizes server-side ambient noise reduction but it would be very useful if developers could figure out for Chrome OS to leverage hardware to do the same for video and audio platforms outside of the Google ecosystem.
As I poked around, it wasn’t entirely clear if this feature would be baked into Chrome OS hardware or, as Android Police inferred, be exclusive to external devices. That idea didn’t sit well with me because this feature is being added to the system tray. To me, that means that it will be a capability of the device itself. So, I did a little more digging. It was then that I found this commit that mentioned ‘Volteer’ which is the baseboard for the Tiger Lake Chromebooks that will soon flood the market. Guess what? Intel’s Tiger Lake platform has AI technology baked right into the chip that brings native support for features like background blurring and – you guessed it – noise cancellation. This leads me to believe that Tiger Lake Chromebooks and perhaps more devices moving forward could support this feature should OEMs choose to equip and enable the necessary microphones needed to leverage the in-built tech.
Now that the ASUS Chromebook CX5 is on the market and HP’s Tiger Lake Chromebook x360 14c has arrived, it is plausible that we could have the chance to test this feature in the near future. Enabling the flag at this point results in no addition to the Quick Settings but the feature just began development a few weeks ago. I’ll be keeping a close watch on this as it evolves. I imagine that native noise cancelling will be a welcome feature for countless users that live and breathe conference calls.