company first announced last year, is now generally available to customers of its G-Suite service.
Starting this week, organizations can use the feature to enable better collaboration among members of distributed project teams. Hangouts Chat, according to Google, supports team chat rooms, threaded conversations and sophisticated search functionality that allow organizations to manage and move projects forward from one place.
Teams can use Chat to speed up a lot of the manual effort involved in collaborative projects such as searching for files, booking conference rooms and other routine tasks, Google said. It's available to Windows and Mac OS users as well as those using Android and iOS. Each Hangouts Chat virtual room can support up to 8,000 team members who can collaborate with each other in 28 different languages.
Chat is integrated with many of G Suite's productivity and collaboration apps such as Docs, Sheets, Drive and Hangouts Meet. So members collaborating on a project can upload items directly from Drive and bring them into Google Docs, or Sheets or Slides said Scott Johnston, director of product management at Google in a Feb. 28 blog.
Similarly, the integration with Hangouts Meet makes it easier to set up online meetings while the search capability allows teams to look up past conversations, find shared files and see who else they might collaborating with in a virtual room, he said.
"Chat also comes equipped with 25 bots to help speed up workflows, ranging from finance and human resources to CRM, project management and more," Johnston said. For example, a Google Drive bot alerts team members when someone shares a file with them or makes a comment on one of their files. Similarly, a Meet bot uses Google Calendar to schedule meetings for the user.
Organizations can also create their own bots to streamline and automate their work, said Mike Sorvillo, Hangouts Chat product manager and Wesley Chun, a developer advocate with G Suite in a separate blog also on Feb.28.
Google's Hangouts Chat developer platform and API gives organizations a way to build and to integrate their own bots with the messaging platform. "For example, a bot can take a location from a user, look it up using the Google Maps API and display the resulting map right within the same message thread in Hangouts Chat," the two product managers said.
Or an organization could create a bot that runs queries for information, posts notifications in any Chat room, or automates a specific task, they said.
Some of the features that Hangouts Chat supports take advantage of Google's considerable experience in artificial intelligence. A so-called Quick Access to Drive feature for instance suggests files or content that a user might need for a meeting based on activity in the users Google Drive and the information in their documents.
In the next few months, Google Calendar will use artificial intelligence to suggest rooms for teams to book. The selections will be based on where project team members are located, including the buildings and floor details, their previous booking histories, audio/visual requirements and, room capacity needs, said David Thacker, vice president of product management in a third Google blog related to the announcement this week.