Google's social network gets a lot of love at I/O 2013, including a complete redesign, new chat features, new photo management and enhancement tools, and deeper integration with the rest of the Google's tools and services.
For photographic and video content, the "tiles" (which are reminiscent of Google Now's) can expand to fill multiple columns. The result is potentially much more eye-catching and adds variation to the stream.
Google's Knowledge Graph technology is able to parse the content of each Google+ post and automatically tag the content for easy discovery and retrieval. Manual hash-tagging is no longer necessary. Google+ is even able to determine the subject of a post based on photographic content.
Google has been long rumored to be combining its disparate communications services into one service under the name Google Babel. The unified messaging service debuted today under the repurposed name Google+ Hangouts.
The app rolls in features that remind me of the old, forgotten Google+ Messenger that debuted alongside the social network, including group chats that users can drop into and out of. Access to a chat history and the ability to privately message off the record are features that have been surfaced from Google Talk.
The Hangouts app is available now for Android and iOS.
Google wants to encourage users to upload full-resolution photos to Google+, so it announced that it is bumping up free photo storage from 5GB to 15GB. Actually, what Google means is that it's combining Google Drive, Gmail, and Photo storage into one shared 15GB pot, but we've already covered that.
For example, if you dump 639 vacation photos into a gallery, Google's algorithms will automatically find the best 21 and present them. The remaining 618 photos deemed not-so-great are still there, just not highlighted.
The automatic sorting software looks for photos that are exposed properly and not blurry, that feature people who are smiling, and landmarks. The software can also help to hide photos that appear to be duplicates.
In the example demonstrated, a bland sky in transformed into a dramatic cloudscape at the touch of a button. I wonder if we're seeing some bleed-over over technologies that Google acquired in its purchase of Android app Snapseed.
Skin Softening is one of the adjustments highlighted in Google's presentation. The function appears to be a version of noise reduction that is specific to human skin. When applied, it smooths out wrinkles, softens blemishes, and generally make people look better. The Google I/O audience was, understandably, not enthused.
The most interesting part of the new photo tools portion of the Google+ presentation was the new Auto Awesome functions. Geared toward having fun with your photos, Auto Awesome allows users to create collages, animated GIFs, and high dynamic range photos from a series of snaps, or to automatically find the best smile in a batch of portraits.