Google+ Stories thinks it can top your vacation slideshow
Google+ expands automation with the new Stories and Movies features, which create digital travelogues of your vacation.
It takes a special kind of dedication to curate hundreds of videos and pictures from a vacation into a usable digital record, a talent that Google thinks it's figured out how to do better than you with its new Google+ Stories and Movies.
The Google+ social network launched Stories and Movies on Tuesday to automatically curate vacations and stay-at-home adventures for you. The features are available now on the Google+ website under Photos, More, and then Stories, with an update to Android app coming later this week and iOS to follow "soon."
"No more sifting through photos for your best shots, racking your brain for the sights you saw, or letting your videos collect virtual dust. We'll just gift you a story after you get home. This way you can relive your favorite moments, share them with others, and remember why you traveled in the first place," wrote Anil Sabharwal, director of Product Management for Google+, in a blog post published this morning.
Features like these are part of Google's attempt to differentiate Google+, the second-largest social network after top dog Facebook. Google said in October that Google+ had 300 million "in-stream" or active users, people who check out their Google+ feed, and that people uploaded 1.5 billion photos per week. The company declined to provide more current usage numbers. Facebook claims more than four times the users, at 1.2 billion.
Google+ has struggled of late, with its founding leader and longtime Googler Vic Gundotra abruptly departing the company. However, if there are any ruffled feathers over his departure, he's not letting them show.
"I love Google+ Stories. When software can automatically weave my photos, videos and places I've been into a beautiful travelogue, that's a plus. Congratulations to the Google+ team!," he said as he re-shared the news on Google+.
Google+ Stories will notify you within 24 hours of your return home from a vacation that a Stories package is ready. It will choose the "best" photos and video highlights, so that duplicates and blurry shots are limited, then pull in the names of cities and places visited. Stories will pull in travel maps and use the names of hotels, restaurants, and airports visited in the captions.
Users will be able to customize a story after it's been built, and share them beyond Google+. Their default setting, as with all Google+ uploads, is private.
While Stories curates an entire trip into a presentation-ready package, Google+ Movies creates a highlight reel of not just your video clips but related photos, incorporating a soundtrack, special effects, and transitions as well.
The Stories and Movies features are an expansion of year-old Google+ automation tools that launched at Google I/O 2013, including an "auto enhance" feature to automatically correct photographic flaws, "auto highlight" to remove bad photos from view, and "auto awesome" to create animated GIFs on the fly.