Google+ Rolls Out 'Stories' for Tricked Out Photo Playback

The tool automatically turns photos and videos into a slick storybook

Google is hoping to lure users to spending more time on its social network with a new photo playback feature for Google+ called "Stories."

Announced Tuesday, Stories will automatically weave people's photos, videos and places visited into what Google calls a "travelogue." It's not your typical slideshow -- the playback is full screen, with photos arranged as they might appear in a scrapbook. Comments and "+1s" are integrated with the photos.

It's available starting this week on Android and the web, Google said, with an iOS version coming soon.

Separate but similar, Google also announced on Tuesday "Movies," which will automatically produce a highlight reel of people's photos and videos, including effects, transitions and music. That feature is available on Android, the web and iOS right now.

The new services are part of a larger assortment of easy-to-use and automatic editing tools Google unveiled late last year, called "Auto Awesome." The features were rolled out as part of a push to turn Google+ into a more engaging service with tools that people might find a less-complicated alternative to programs like Photoshop.

Google is hoping to get more sign-on from users with its new features, and it shows in the way that Stories and Movies work. Users must turn on automatic backup of photos and videos to gain access to the features.

As other large Internet companies like Dropbox, Facebook and Twitter release new features for photo storage in the cloud, Google faces challenges in distinguishing itself. The new features also come as Google faces questions over the future of Google+, following the departure of key executive Vic Gundotra. Stories and Movies show that Google isn't giving up on Google+.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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