During a press event in San Francisco yesterday, Google's Vic Gundotra delivered 18 new features for the social network designed to help its photography enthusiasts take, edit, share, and organize photos. Gundotra also shared some big, updated user numbers: 540 million active users now upload 1.5 billion photos to Google Plus each week. (By comparison, Instagram users share about 385 million photos per week.)
"We're not building a service for lightweight sharing," Gundotra said of Google Plus. Here's what the best new Google Plus features can do:
Google knows you love GIFs. So they're cropping up across the network, including directly in your Google Plus stream, where you can now also share your location and text with friends through newly added SMS support.
Better-Looking Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts now support full-screen video calls that add some new visual effects to change up the way you look onscreen. Poorly lit Hangout members now get a lighting boost, and new filters let you chat in black-and-white spotlight mode.
HDR Scape For Snapseed
Snapseed, the suite of free photo-editing tools Google acquired last year, got a wow-worthy new filter that mimics a pro technique called HDR, which photographers use to layer identical photos shot with various exposures. The resulting images often closely resemble what we see with the human eye.
Auto Awesome, Google's set of photo tools that let you remix your pictures to create new, "fun" versions, got some new adds. Among the most fun: A Motion feature will detect when you take a series of at least five photos in succession and stitch them together to create a short animation.
Auto Awesome Action takes all the photos you took of someone in motion--whether they're dancing, running, or jumping-- and merges them together into a single shot that looks like this:
Auto Awesome Eraser will detect any moving objects that accidentally sneak into your shot and magically "erase" them out of the photo.
Movies Of Myself
One Auto Awesome feature is particularly intriguing: Movies will create short films by automatically editing and compiling the videos and photos you took around an event or experience, and adding one of dozens of licensed tracks to the video. Once Google is done, it will send you a push notification so you just click and share.
If you don't like one of Google's machine algorithm-based editorial choices, you can always go in and edit movies yourself. Movies are currently only available on a handful of Nexus and HTC devices that run Android's Jelly Bean OS and up.
[Image: Flickr user BlackStones707]