Google+ Hangout Updates
One of the most popular features unveiled along with Google+ last year was the company’s innovative “Hangouts” feature which allowed up to ten friends to video chat with each other simultaneously in a conference-like format. It was so popular and well-reviewed, in fact, that competitors like Facebook were quick to unveil their own (less impressive) versions of video chat for social networking users. Now, however, Google has taken their most popular feature and made it even more useful to a wider number of users. The company has unveiled several new features that make Hangouts a practical business technology in addition to its credibility among those simply being social.
Taking a Hangout Live and On Air
Google has added a new feature to its Google+ Hangouts feature known as “Hangouts On Air.” The technology does exactly what it sounds like: Users simply log in, elect to broadcast their video stream, and the topics they’re discussing can be seen by viewer around the internet just like a typical streaming media feed. This is great for things like video lectures at universities, tutorials for those in the medial or legal field, or any event that a company would like to stream using remote servers and a widely-accessible service like Google which requires just a typical Google account for the content to be viewed across the web.
Taking Hangouts Mobile
For quite some time, Google+ Hangouts was a feature limited only to desktop and laptop computers with webcams. Now, however, the company has taken hangouts out of the office and into the real world with support for mobile phones with front-facing cameras. Users simply open the Google+ app on their Android device and elect to create a Hangout or join one already in progress. The company promises that iOS device users all soon have this feature, as well.
Document Collaboration and “Extras” with the New Google+ Hangouts
Perhaps the most exciting new feature unveiled with the Google+ Hangouts update was the addition of document sharing and collaboration built right into the company’s software application that enables the ten-person conferencing technology. Indeed, it is now possible to work on Google Docs files with all of the other users in the Hangout at the same time. This is a really great feature for businesses who are looking to take document collaboration and information management to the next level, as they can remotely work on documents together just as they would in an office.
Paired with the support for collaborative Google Docs files is the company’s new screen sharing feature. Using this new Google+ addition allows users to actually broadcast exactly what is happening on their computer or mobile device’s screen to all of their friends or colleagues in the Hangout itself. When combined with collaborative Google Docs editing, this is a powerful way to communicate ideas and show what’ going on in real time.
And, if a shared screen isn’t effective enough at communicating an idea, the company has also enabled shared and easily-viewable sketch pads. Any user in the Hangout can simply open a sketch pad, draw their idea, and share it in real time with everyone who has joined the Hangout conversation. It’s a great way to illustrate points or ideas when words simply aren’t working, and it’s a great way to enable playing online Pictionary with coworkers on those Fridays when nothing else is likely to get done, anyway.
A Great Update to an Already-Great Feature
All told, the updates to Google Hangouts will likely make the technology much more common among businesses and startups. The inclusion of Google Docs sharing is perhaps the biggest feature, which enables the kind of real-time, face-to-face collaboration that internet users have been missing for far too long.
When paired with shared screens, a live sketch pad, and the ability to broadcast the entire conversation in a streaming format to any Google user, it’s likely that Google Hangouts will become a central part of corporate presentations, student collaborations, and life on the go.