ChromeOS set to gain background blur, other video call features

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As video calling apps have become essential to getting modern work done, ChromeOS is preparing to enhance those apps with background blur and other helpful tools.

Over the last few years, much of work has moved online, especially meetings. Even getting together with friends is made easier with video apps like Google Meet, Zoom, and more.

Some apps offer their own ways to enhance your video with effects that can swap out your background, blur your surroundings, or adjust for the amount of light in your room. Meanwhile, some newer devices like Macs with Apple Silicon include built-in video effects like portrait blur and “Center Stage” reframing that work across any app that uses your camera.

It seems Google’s ChromeOS team is looking to replicate the built-in video camera effects of macOS, according to a new code change. Things will kick off with an option for built-in background blur, initially locked behind a feature flag.

Enable vc background blur

Enables background blur feature for video conferencing on chromebooks.

#vc-background-blur

From what we can piece together, the background blur will be powered by machine learning, which may mean it will only be available on newer ChromeOS devices. At the moment, Google has been testing background blur effects on Chromebooks with 11th Gen and 12th Gen Intel processors.

It’s also possible that background blur may not be the only video effect coming to ChromeOS. In one comment, a Googler mentions testing out the “portrait relighting” effect that’s built into Google Camera on Pixel phones, along with an “AUTO_FRAMING” feature that sounds similar to what Google Duo offered.

The background blur and portrait relighting effects seem to be arriving as part of a broader plan to improve video calling apps on ChromeOS. Across a few other code changes [1, 2], we see that ChromeOS may begin monitoring for when a video call begins in an app like Zoom or Google Meet. Things are in a fairly early state right now, but it seems like there are plans to show warnings if your network becomes unstable during a call, as well as a few other features we can’t quite pin down.

Overall, it’s clear Google recognizes how important video calling has become and wants to ensure newer Chromebooks can be competitive with Windows and Mac computers. Given the very early state that these features are in, it may still be a few months of development before they arrive for more Chromebook owners.

How often do you use video calling apps on your Chromebook? Would you use built-in video effects instead of app-specific ones? Let us know down in the comments.

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