Google+ Adds Some Bells and Whistles to Live-Video Hangouts

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One of the cooler features of the new-ish Google+ social network is the ability to hold “Hangouts”—live, multi-person video chats. Today, Google unveiled some new Hangout-specific additions to the service.

For starters, posts will now feature a “Hangout” link directly beneath them that allows you to start a live video discussion to augment the post’s text-based comments. The same feature will be making its way to mobile versions in the near future—Google says a new version of Google+ will be available for Android “in a few days”; the Apple version is simply “coming soon.”

Hangouts will also now be able to loop in people without webcams via telephone by leveraging Google Voice to make free calls to the U.S. and Canada—cheap international rates are available, too. And if you’re invited to a particular Hangout, you can now be notified via Google Chat on your desktop and from within the Google+ mobile app.

There’s also a “Hangouts On Air” feature that’s been used by big names such as the Black Eyed Peas, the Dalai Lama and the Muppets “to share their performances and peace talks with the world.” This feature will soon be extended to “hundreds” of additional “public figures, celebrities and other Google+ users with large followings,” says Google.

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