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Hangouts eavesdrops on your chats to offer 'smart suggestions'

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Google's Hangouts is gaining a handy, but slightly creepy new feature today. The popular chat app will now act as a digital spy-slash-valet by eavesdropping on your conversations to offer "smart suggestions." For instance, if a pal asks "where are you?" it'll immediately prompt you to share your location, then open a map so you can pin it precisely. It'll also try to help if it detects certain other phrases in a conversation using artificial intelligence tech that Google recently purchased from a company called Emu. Google said the suggestions are "the start of something new," which may not reassure folks already concerned that it's a tad too invasive already. To be fair, though, it's not far from how Google currently monitors email and searches to deliver targeted ads.

Google now offers "timestamping" as well, so that you can see when a friend was last online to know if they're available to chat -- an overdue feature that other chat apps support. It's also trying to fun Hangouts up in a couple of new ways too. First off, there are now 16 more pages of occasionally-amusing stickers (like skateboarding cats or hungover penguins) that you can sprinkle into conversations. You can also tint yourself during video calls with sepia, vignette, black & white and other filters. Google will start rolling out the new version of Hangouts today on Android ("soon" on iOS), though it added that you may not see the timestamping feature "for all your contacts right away."

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