Google+ users are getting an assortment of cool, creative new tools that will let them get more out of their photos and experiences in Google+ Hangouts. For the first time, Google+ Hangouts for Android now supports location-sharing and Short Message Service (SMS) communications, while Google+ Photos adds new photo strobe features and much deeper editing tools to help rescue photos that are too light or dark.
The new capabilities were unveiled by Vic Gundotra, a Google senior vice president, in an Oct. 29 Webcast and post on the Google Official Blog. “We could all use more time for ourselves, and less time figuring out technology,” wrote Gundotra, “So today’s improvements to Google+ Hangouts and Photos aim to take a lot of the work out of messaging, video calling and photo editing.”
Gundotra’s announcement was delayed for about 20 minutes by a local power outage that affected the site of the Webcast.
Some of the new tool’s cool features are automatic enhancement capabilities that let users dial their enhancements up or down to correct poorly exposed original images, and wider photo finding capabilities that allow users to type in words such as “snowmen” or “cars” to find images containing such elements, wrote Gundotra.
The biggest “wow” features, however, might be the expanded new Auto Awesome capabilities that let users “stitch” images together to create image strobe effects that make the photos appear to include movement, he wrote. “Maybe it’s your child’s first gymnastic meet, or you’re skateboarding with a friend. Action can take their tumble or half-pipe trick, and create a strobe-effect photograph.”
Also included is a new “eraser” feature that allows users to edit their images to remove unwanted things that might be in the background of the photo, such as a parked car or a street sign. “Eraser can take a sequence of these photos, and erase whatever’s moving to give you a ‘cleaner’ image,” wrote Gundotra.
A new automated “movie” feature is also innovative. “Movie produces highlight reels from your photos and videos—complete with effects, transitions and a soundtrack—automatically,” he wrote. “You can share the movie as is, or dive into the editing process to customize even further.”
The new photo and video improvements are slated for release this week, according to Gundotra. The Auto Awesome Movie capability runs only on certain devices that run Android 4.3 or higher. The other new app features are widely supported.
For Google+ Hangouts users, the biggest improvements are location sharing and SMS communications for Hangouts for Android users, wrote Gundotra. “This way you can send a map of your current location (vs. finding and typing an address), and you can send and receive SMS (vs. switching between apps).”
For the first time, animated GIF images can now play inline, he wrote.
Also new for Hangouts users is the ability for broadcasters to now be able to schedule Hangouts on Air sessions, and then promote them with a dedicated watch page, wrote Gundotra. “Once you’re live, Control Room lets you moderate the conversation with eject and remote mute. In both cases, the video calling experience is significantly improved. It’s now full screen across mobile and desktop, and it fixes and enhances Webcam lighting automatically.
The new Android Hangouts features will roll out in the next few days, while the On Air improvements will roll out over the next few weeks, he wrote.
The Auto Awesome upgrades improve on Google+ features that were launched in May. “Part of what makes these new features possible are advances in computer vision and machine learning technology, enabling computers to automatically identify and categorize what is in a photo,” according to the Research at Google team’s Google+ page. “Action, Eraser, and Movie are just a few examples of how research conducted across Google can help you share your story.”
Earlier in October, Google+ Hangouts updated its iOS app to include free calling to any phones in the United States and Canada for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users in the U.S.