Google is making one of the most talked-about features of Google+, its Hangouts videoconferencing service, easier to find and use.
Now users can launch a Hangout directly from a Google+ post, starting a conversation with the person who posted the item.
"Certain posts act as kindling for face-to-face interaction," Google Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra wrote in a blog post announcing the new features.
So if a friend mentions taking a new job or a sibling announces their engagement on the social network, users can quickly launch a video chat to offer congratulations.
Google is also adding the ability to quickly launch Hangouts on mobile phones as well. Over the next few days, Google will launch a new Google+ app for devices that run its Android mobile operating system that will let users tap a new Hangout icon in Google+ Messenger to start a face-to-face chat. The company said the updated iTunes version of the app is "coming soon" to the App Store.
Google is also making the broadcast version of Hangouts, dubbed Hangouts On Air, more widely available. In September, it debuted the service, which lets Google+ users with big followings broadcast a Hangout to anyone who wants to tune in, with a Hangout On Air featuring Black Eyed Peas member Will.i.am.
Hangouts On Air won't yet be available for everyone. But Google is opening it up to "hundreds more public figures, celebrities and other Google+ users with large followings." It's also making Hangouts On Air completely self-service, giving those Google+ users the tools to set up a broadcast whenever they want, rather than relying on help from Google. And Google is integrating the service with its YouTube business, uploading recordings of Hangouts On Air, which users can set for private viewership, once the session ends.
And Google has added a new Easter egg to Hangouts. Last month, it let users put digitally placed moustaches on their faces during a Hangout in recognition of Movember, a moustache-growing event held during November to raise funds and awareness for men's health issues. For the holidays, Google+ users can don a set of digital antlers during a Hangout. And Gundotra wrote that the company will soon let developers create their own effects using the Hangouts API.
Here is a new ad for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, featuring the new Google+ Hangout on mobile devices: