Since its public debut in 2011, Google+ has quickly grown to include more than 540 million active users who upload roughly 1.5 billion photos every week. Using a converted San Francisco warehouse as an impromptu art gallery this morning, Google has announced a host of new features coming to Google+ that will not only drastically improve Hangouts but also make taking, organising, retouching and storing these photos easier than ever.
Google has announced improvements to all three of Hangout's services, including location sharing, animated gifs, and SMS messaging are now included in video calls. Additionally, video calls will automatically be displayed in full-screen HD with enhanced webcam auto-lighting and focus features designed to eliminate back-light silhouetting and noisy backgrounds.
The Hangouts Broadcast service is now easier to use as well, providing an enhanced tool set that will allow users to better control their message. This includes a revamped scheduling feature that generates a dedicated landing page for upcoming events and allows for seamless promotion of the event across Google platforms. Broadcasters will also have greater control over the events themselves with the ability to adjust participant volume levels and the power to boot troublemakers from the event entirely.
Despite the proliferation of high quality, low cost equipment, photography remains a cumbersome and time-consuming hobby — especially with your treasured photos spread among multiple cameras, SD cards, and mobile devices. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that people can now take hundreds of photos in a single day. But Google's updated Photos service aims to drastically reduce the amount of time and energy you have to spend after the fact by automating as much of the process as possible.
Not only has Google+ improved its backup service to upload full resolution images by default, the company announced today that with its next iOS update, the program will include background syncing capabilities as well.
Organising your photo collection is also being simplified. Google is applying computer vision algorithms to automatically pick out the best shots — the least blurry, best exposure, or those including known landmarks and friends' faces. These algorithms will also allow you to easily search for specific elements within a photo, even if it isn't tagged as such. The service now includes more than a thousand search terms from bridesmaids to hedgehogs, sunset beaches to snow-covered ski slopes. What's more, the search function is available within both your own library and those of people in your circles.
Editing your photos and videos is also being simplified with automated photo enhancements that take care of all the colour-balancing, noise decreasing, skin tone matching, and other labour-intensive edits without your direct involvement. What's more, the service can now be tuned to your specific preferences, not just turned off and on, on a per album basis.
Additionally, Google's Auto Awesome service now makes advanced processes — like stitching together a series of action shots or removing unwanted elements from that series — is practically automatic. Users simply select a photo series and Auto Awesome takes care of the rest. Even video editing has become automated. Auto Awesome Movie will edit, trim, and even time a video sequence to music — all without your direct intervention. The service will simply send you a notification that the process is complete and prompt you for approval before publishing it.
For the more seasoned photographer, Google's Snapseed service includes a number of new filters, including an intelligent HDR filter that utilises pixel edge contrast algorithms to better enhance images — the first time this computationally intensive algorithm has been available on mobile devices. And for the real professional, Google's NIK software suite now offers a bevy of new filters.
With these new services under your belt, you'd better clear some shelf space for all those new Pulitzers.