All posts in “Photos”

Google Photos gets more pet-friendly

If you’re a pet owner who uses Google Photos, you’ve probably typed in “dog” or “cat” before in order to surface photos of your furry pal – like anytime someone asks you about your pet, for example, which clearly means they would like to see a picture of Mr. Fluffypants. Today, Google is introducing an easier way to aggregate your pet photos in its Photos app – by allowing you to group all your pet’s photos in one place, right beside the people Google Photos organized using facial recognition.

This is an improvement over typing in “dog,” or another generalized term, because the app will now only group together photos of an individual pet together, instead of returning all photos you’ve captured with a “dog” in them.

And like the face grouping feature, you can label the pet by name to more easily pull up their photos in the app, or create albums, movies or photo books using their pictures.

In addition, Google Photos lets you type in an animal’s breed to search for photos of pets, and it lets you search for photos using the dog and cat emojis. The company also earlier this year introduced a feature that would create a mini-movie starring your pet, but you can opt to make one yourself by manually selecting photos then choosing from a half-dozen tracks to accompany the movie, says Google.

Helping people with their pet photos (and those of kids, we should note) is a big selling point for photo-taking apps and other photography accessories. For instance, Google’s new camera called Clips has been specially designed to automate the process of taking the best photos of children and pets by capturing “motion photos” without sound, then using on-board machine learning algorithms to figure out which are the best images.

Google says the new pet-friendly features in Google Photos will roll out today to most countries worldwide.

Featured Image: benjgibbs/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

Google quietly added a new video feature to Google Maps

Your destination will now come to life when you search on Google Maps.

Google has added a new video feature to accompany its mapping service, the company announced. Now, when you search a destination, you’ll be able to find video footage of the location in the section of the map where you usually see user-submitted photos.

Right now, only Local Guides — designated users who contribute photos, reviews, and information about restaurants, parks, museums, and other mappable spots — on Android devices will be able to upload video footage to a location. But it looks like uploading videos will soon be an option for others, like business owners wanting to show off their store front or products, reports TechCrunch.

While the tool was quietly rolled out in late August, it wasn’t until this week that the video feature was announced more widely.  

This weekend I’m heading to Bodega Bay, up the Northern California coast. Starting soon videos of the beach, or a fish market, or the church where The Birds was filmed, could pop up on the left-hand side of the page, near where the still photos are already uploaded to the map.

Image: google maps/screengrab

Looks like mapping just got way more watchable.

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Microsoft’s AI camera app Pix is now a business productivity tool

Microsoft Pix, the iOS camera app that leverages A.I. to help you take better photos, is venturing beyond being a tool for consumers with an update that now sees it able to assist with photos of business documents, whiteboards, post-it notes, and business cards. According to Microsoft, the additional support focused on office productivity made sense because people were already doing a lot of document scanning in the workplace, its data had shown.

With the updated app, when you go to snap a photo of a document, whiteboard, business card or another item that’s not a traditional photo, Pix will automatically detect what it’s seeing in real-time and make intelligent camera adjustments to help you get the best picture.

After the shutter clicks, the app then uses A.I. to further improve the images by doing things like cropping the edges, boosting the color and tone, sharpening the focus, and tweaking the angle to render the image in a straight-on perspective, says Microsoft.

You can see an example of this new feature in action above, where a photo of a bunch of Post-its on the wall is taken at an angle. Pix is able to straighten out the Post-its so you can better read the text scribbled on the note.

This image correction technology and the other algorithms involved were already being used in another Microsoft app, Office Lens. That app, released a couple of years ago, lets you take photos of whiteboards and documents for easy sharing to OneDrive, or for conversion into editable Office documents, like Word or PowerPoint files.

Of course, many other apps can correct images like this as well, whether that’s an app that helps you snap photos of business cards or receipts, like Evernote’s Scannable, or those designed to help you archive old, printed photos into the cloud, like Google’s PhotoScan.

What’s more notable, then, about Microsoft Pix’s update is that it’s adding this feature into a more fully functional camera app, rather than one that has a singular purpose of working with business files. In addition to these image correction tools for productivity’s sake, the app also includes a suite of photo editing tools, including those that let you apply Prisma-like styles to photos. (Unfortunately, we’ve noticed the app crashes when you try to use those on the soon-to-be released iOS 11, so be warned. Hopefully a fix will arrive before iOS 11 is released to the public.)

Along with the new productivity tools, today’s update also ships with a set of effects that can be applied to images of whiteboards and documents, like those that can add lines to a whiteboard to make it look like a piece of notebook paper, for example.

These effects leverage the same style transfer technology that turns photos into art, from the update earlier this year.

“The team had this idea that the styles we shipped a few months ago shouldn’t be limited to just fun photos,” said Josh Weisberg, a principal program manager in the Computational Photography Group within Microsoft’s research organization in Redmond, Washington, in an announcement about the new version of Pix

“So we built a number of effects that are more appropriate for these productivity types,” he said.

The updated app is live on the iOS App Store.

Facetune maker’s latest app, Quickshot, helps you take better photos

Lightricks, the company behind the popular selfie-correcting app called Facetune, is adding to its line of mobile photography and editing tools with the recent launch of a new app called Quickshot. Like its other efforts in this space, Quickshot aims to make photo editing more accessible to amateurs. However, in this case, the app’s focus is to assist with taking photos, not just correcting them after the fact.

The app’s name references one tool in particular – a “quickshot” mode which will automatically align your photos, fix the lighting and preview filters before you even snap the picture. The idea is that you’ll be able to take better photos if you can see what they’ll look like before you press the capture button.

Other modes include the “strobe” mode that lets you capture action and movement by mimicking strobe lights and long exposures, and an “HDR” mode that helps with tricky lighting situations.

Beyond these different camera modes, the app also ships with a range of adjustable presets for various scenes, like portraits, nature, urban, and more. That way, novice photographers don’t have to fiddle with various settings to take the best photo, while more advanced users can load a preset then tweak it further to their liking.

The ability to customize your filter in order to give your photos a unique, personalized look is something that draws people to other top photo apps, like Instagram, Snapseed, and VSCO, for example. But with Quickshot, the larger idea is to combine favorite tools like photo filters with Lightricks’ understanding of making photo edits easier through tricks like instant fixes and other tools that can speed up the process.

For example, Quickshot’s batch editor that lets you adjust a single style – like the filter, brightness, depth and more – and then apply it multiple images all at once.

Quickshot is the latest app in a growing lineup of apps from Lightricks, which has been aiming to capitalize on its success with Facetune to launch a subscription business for its creativity tools. Earlier this summer, it debuted a new photo editor called Enlight Photofox, which is basically the upgraded version of the existing Enlight app.

It’s still somewhat rare to see this strategy play out on today’s App Store. Developers are often expected to roll out new features as upgrades to existing apps, not as new ones. Tweetbot, a Twitter client, has been one exception to this rule, which applies more so to apps than games. It’s far more common for sequels to arrive as their own standalone games, as with Monument 2, for instance.

Like Enlight Photofox and Facetune 2, Quickshot is also a subscription offering. While the app itself is free, an “unlimited access subscription” offers all the app’s features and content, for either $1.99 per month, $0.83 per month if you pay for a year upfront, or $19.99 for life.

Because of this model, Quickshot is getting slammed in the App Store reviews from those who feel like it doesn’t offer enough features to justify this pricing. The app currently has a 2.3-star rating (out of 5). This, unfortunately, speaks to a larger problem with the App Store’s business model – developers who believe their work is worth paying for are penalized because there are so many free alternatives available they have to compete against, and because the App Store has propagated the belief that because apps are small, they should cost less than desktop software.

Lightricks, before the shift to subscriptions, sold a healthy 11 million paid downloads of its apps. But despite the pushback from users about subscriptions, the company claims they’ve enabled it to increase revenues.

“Regarding the pivot to subscription model we can definitely confirm that there has a been a significant uptick in revenue run rates,” says Itai Tsiddon, Lightricks co-founder. “However, at this time, we are not yet disclosing specific numbers,” he says, adding that the company will release more details around the end of year.