Today Google has announced that the Duo web client will be picking up the ability to make group calls in Chrome, together with a handful of smaller tweaks that will make organizing those group calls with your family or friends a bit easier. The only potential hiccup here is the timeline: The feature is set to debut "in the coming weeks."
When it rolls out, the web-based Duo group call support will be a Chrome-only "preview," according to Google. Accompanying the change is a new layout to better accommodate multiple participants,and a new Google account-based system for invites. Previously Duo had a phone number as a hard requirement, though we spotted standalone Google Account-based support rolling out earlier in the year. Presumably, this serves as a formal announcement for that feature, which was inconsistent and buggy at the time. (Google has also updated support documents to label a phone number as "optional" for Duo.)
We assume the new group call layout will look something like this.
A new 'family mode' is also coming to Duo, loaded with effects, masks, and a doodling mode — the sort of stuff younger kids on a call might get a kick out of. It also hides the mute and hang-up buttons, so kids don't accidentally close the call. (In essence, it's more of a "kid mode" than a family mode.) The feature does require that you be signed into Duo with your Google account, though, and Google implies that it's available now.
New video effects, including a specific Mother's day one, are also rolling out this week, with a handful of others also planned.
These latest changes follow other recent tweaks to Google's consumer-facing video calling services, including Google Meet becoming free for everyone and tweaks to Duo, including VP9 support, bigger group calls, and better low-bandwidth performance. It's probably too early for today's news to be impacted by the company's recent messaging service reorganization, but Duo is definitely releasing new features at a clip these days. That's all to handy with most of us stuck at home during the ongoing lockdown, and dependent on services like Duo to connect with our loved ones.
Google is also working on increasing the maximum number of participants in Duo calls to 32 people. See this post for more details.