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Google today announced the availability of Google Play Services version 7.8 to ease the development of mobile apps. The most compelling aspect of this code release is a new application programming interface called Nearby Messages. The API gives developers a way to expose content in apps to the devices and beacons around you.

“Today, it takes several steps — whether it’s exchanging contact information, scanning a QR code, or pairing via bluetooth — to get a simple piece of information to someone right next to you. Ideally, you should be able to just turn to them and do so, the same way you do in the real world,” Google product manager Akshay Kannan wrote in a blog post on the new API, which works for both iOS and Android apps. Edjing Pro, Pocket Casts, Trello, and Trulia are already using the API in their mobile apps.

Google Play Services 7.8 also make it easier for developers to incorporate better face detection and barcode scanning into their applications, thanks to the new Mobile Vision application programming interface (API).

“The Face API [which is inside the Mobile Vision API] allows developers to find human faces in images and video,” Magnus Hyttsten, developer advocate on the Google Play Services team, wrote in his own blog post on the release. “It’s faster, more accurate and provides more information than the Android FaceDetector.Face API. It finds faces in any orientation, allows developers to find landmarks such as the eyes, nose, and mouth, and identifies faces that are smiling and/or have their eyes open. Applications include photography, games, and hands-free user interfaces.”

The Barcode API can recognize multiple barcodes at once on any device, in any orientation, Hyttsten wrote.

The update also comes with improvements to Google Cloud Messaging. Now, ahead of the release of Android M, developers can designate if notifications should show up in high priority or normal priority mode.

“Set messages that need immediate user attention to high priority, e.g., chat message alert, incoming voice call alert,” Hyttsten wrote. “And keep the remaining messages at normal priority so that it can be handled in the most battery efficient way without impeding your app performance.”

Google Play Services 7.8 is an update from version 7.5, which was announced at the Google I/O developer conference in May.

You can get the new version from the Android SDK Manager that comes with Android Studio.


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