Google Hangouts for Android are about to get smarter. Google announced an upgrade to the app earlier today which will include smart suggestions, 16 sticker packs, video calling filters and notifications of who is available to chat.
The smart suggestions set this update apart from the other hundreds of app upgrades available through the Google App store every week.
Simply put, it recognizes key words and phrases in your chat conversations and then offers contextually relevant suggestions based on those conversations.
Google’s Rhett Robinson offers the following example in a Google Plus blog post:
When you’re trying to meet up with friends in real life and someone asks, 'Where are you?' Hangouts can now understand what you need and offers to help.You’ll see a one-tap option to share your location right in the conversation, without you needing to hunt around in a map, drop a pin and send your position.
The new app uses natural-language processing to understand what someone has asked. In the case of a location query it "understands" the questions, then offers the user the capability to send GPS data with the touch of a finger.
Location sharing is not new with Google Hangouts but the new smart features are. If it seems a bit simple at the moment, it’s only a sign of what could emerge given that the smart feature enables Google to “understand” conversations.
This is particularly true given where this capability came from. While Google already had a good line on "smart" features itself, its acquisition of Emu in August of this year provided this particular capability.
Emu developed a smart messaging service that mines users’ conversations and identifies relevant information contained in the conversation. It also allows users to create calendar events using the information in the conversation.
At the time, there were a lot of questions about what Google was going to do with Emu and now we know. We don’t know where it is going, although the introduction of smart messaging will only be the start, according Google.
The announcement was made this morning at LeWeb conference in Paris by Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product management at Google Plus. He said that the updated app is available for Google's Android mobile operating system through the App Store.
It has also been submitted to Apple for approval on iOS and will be available for iOS once approval is received.
There are other elements too -- like a cat on a skateboard sticker -- if you’re into "fun" with your tech, but the smart suggestion feature is what really stands out.