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YouTube Super Chat lets you pay to spark livestream antics

Google's massive video service opens up its Super Chat "tip jar" for YouTube livestreams to let you trigger actions that happen as you watch.

Screenshot by Joan E. Solsman/CNET
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YouTube is opening up its "tip jar" on livestreams -- called Super Chat -- so developers can program automated triggers for something to happen in real life during the broadcast.

Google's massive video site unveiled the new capability at Google I/O, Google's annual conference collecting the legion of developers who work on the far-flung corners of its empire. The three day event is expected to bring updates about Google's Android mobile operating system, Chrome web browser, Google Home smart speaker and a slew of other products and services, setting the agenda of Google's priorities for the rest of the year.

YouTube released Super Chat earlier this year. It's a way for viewers to pay a performer an amount of money. Typical Super Chats will highlight the viewer's message and keep it pinned up high in the regular chat feed.

Wednesday, YouTube said Super Chat would have a new API, an application programming interface that acts like an instruction manual and toolbox for a software program.

The API can let programmers automate any action -- like turning off the lights in the performer's studio or flying a drone -- when a viewer buys a Super Chat during a livestream.

During a demonstration at I/O, a YouTube product manager sent a $500 Super Chat during a livestream by The Slo Mo Guys, YouTube stars who have 9 million subscribers. The Super Chat triggered a horn to go off, which signaled a crowd of people to start pelting them with water balloons.

Watch the Google I/O livestream and check out the latest Google I/O news.