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May 23, 2016

Google Launches New Video Chatting App

Last week, Google announced the debut of Duo, a simple one-to-one video chatting interface that is similar to Apple’s popular Facetime feature. The app will be available on both Andriod and iOS devices and will be rolling out this summer. Like Facetime, it will be tied to the user’s cell phone number.

“We challenged ourselves to develop a video calling experience that could feel magical every time for everyone,” Erik Kay, an engineering director at Google, said at the Google I/O conference in Mountain View. As a result, Duo has been optimized to work on both fast and slow networks, and is constantly monitoring signal connection and strength allowing it to switch back and forth seamlessly between WiFi and cellular data as needed, eliminating much of the lag and freezing that frustrates video chatters.

Another interesting new feature that Duo has is known as Knock Knock. It allows the person receiving the call to actually see what the caller is doing before agreeing to initiate a video chat, much like looking through a peephole before answering someone knocking at a door.  “Not only can you see who’s calling, but why they’re calling, and what they’re up to: A smile, a beach, a newborn baby,” Kay said.

But wait, you may be asking yourself: “Doesn’t Google already have a video chatting service in Google Hangouts?”  The answer to that question is yes, Hangouts, a feature integrated into Gmail, has long been Google’s video chatting solution. However, it does not appear that Duo is being launched to challenge Hangouts but rather to compliment it. Duo is clearly optimized for one to one, individual calls, in the manner of a phone call, while the features of Hangouts are more geared for group chats and collaborations. By creating the Duo app, Google has created for itself two video chatting entities which can now each be optimized for their specific uses. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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