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Google's new Hangouts app introduces clever location sharing

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The Android Hangouts app is getting a major update today. 16 new sticker packs and a selection of classic video filters are the most visible of the new changes, but the addition of smart suggestions based on your location may end up being the most important. When a contact asks "where are you," a new prompt now appears to let you share your location directly with a single tap. This contextual awareness saves a lot of hunting around and marks "the start of something new", according to Google's Rhett Robinson, who hints at a series of further smart suggestions based on the information you're already sharing with Google.

Speaking at the Le Web conference this morning, Google product chief Bradley Horowitz described the new Hangouts as an extension of the same principles underpinning Google Now. Machine learning is used to decode various phrasings of the location question — such as "where you at" — and respond accordingly, and though Horowitz wouldn't specify how this functionality can be further advanced, obvious next steps include the sharing of calendar appointments and flight times.

You can now also associate your phone number with your Hangouts account, so that others can find you even if they don't have your Google contact details, plus a "last seen" timestamp will let your friends know when you were last available on Hangouts. There are also a few Easter egg surprises scattered in throughout this update, but Google's leaving it to users to find out what they are. The new Hangouts app is rolling out to the Android Play Store over the next few hours and all of the freshly introduced features will be making their way to iOS and other platforms soon.

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