All posts in “Photos”

Snapchat’s newest filters can recognize what’s in your photos


Snapchat is rolling out new filters that can recognize what’s in your photos in order to suggest graphics, like borders or stickers, to accompany your posts. These filters today are capable of recognizing images of objects like pets, sports, and food, as well as specific locations, like beaches or concerts.

The quiet release of the new filters was first spotted by Mashable, which confirmed the rollout with a company spokesperson.

The filters will appear as options in the carousel of filters after the user takes a photo matching one of the above categories, the report also noted.

The addition is an extension of Snapchat’s existing smart filters, including those that are based on where you are at the moment, also known as geofilters. Before, the smart filter carousel had featured smart filters that would show things like time, temperature or speed, but these have now been moved to the creative tool bar, where they’re available as stickers.

Being able to identify what’s in a photo in order to suggest filters could impact Snap’s advertising business in the future, as brands could target users based on the images they’re capturing, instead of just targeting a location or set of interests, as they do now. The company had also filed a patent for an advertising system patent back in 2015, which was published last July, the report said.

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Object recognition is a standard for many of today’s photo-sharing apps, including Apple’s Photos app, Google Photos, Amazon’s Prime Photos, and more. But in most cases, it’s been put to use to help surface photos of a certain nature, not to suggest ways to augment those photos with stickers and other decorations, with the more recent exception of Microsoft’s Skype, which added a similar feature called “Photo Effects” earlier this month.

This is not the first time Snapchat has offered image recognition capabilities, though. The company already lets users search across Stories by keywords for the objects in question (like “dogs”), or to search through their Snapchat Memories.

The launch of the filters comes just ahead of a significant redesign of the Snapchat application, which will focus on making the app easier to use for older people, while also sorting the Stories feed algorithmically, instead of in reverse-chronological order as it does now.

Image credits: Mashable

Featured Image: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/Getty Images

Skype launches Photo Effects – sticker suggestions powered by machine learning


Not content with merely launching its own take on Instagram and Snapchat’s Stories, Skype today is adding another copycat-like feature to its app: photo stickers. The company says it’s introducing new “Photo Effects” (as it’s calling these stickers), which include things like face masks, decorative borders, witty captions, and more. However, unlike the photo stickers you’ll find in other social apps today, Skype will actually suggest the stickers to use based on the photo’s content, day of the week, and other options.

The new feature is based on technology Microsoft introduced earlier this year in a silly camera app called Sprinkles.

The Sprinkles app leverages Microsoft’s machine learning and A.I. capabilities to do things like detect faces in photos, determine the subject’s age and emotion, figure out your celebrity look-a-like, and suggest captions. It then lets you swipe through its suggestions – for example, various props to add to your photo, funny captions, and stickers displaying its guess about your age, among other things.

Similarly, Skype will suggest its photo effects automatically with a press of a button.

To use the feature, you’ll first snap a photo then tap the magic wand icon at the top of the screen to access the photo effects.

As you swipe right through the suggestions, you’ll be prompted to add things to your photo like a smart face sticker, the weather, your location, a caption that references the day (e.g. “turn that frown upside down, it’s taco Tuesday!”), face masks, a celebrity look-a-like, or even a mystery face swap.

Microsoft says these photo effects will change often – like on different days of the week or holidays, for instance.

The resulting image can be shared with Skype friends in a conversation or posted to Skype’s new Highlights feature, which is the Instagram/Snapchat Stories clone introduced earlier this year.

Like Stories on other platforms, Highlights are somewhat ephemeral. But instead of lasting a day, they’re available for a week. They’re also not shared with your entire Skype network – only those who have opted to follow your Highlights directly.

Highlights remains a mobile-only feature for now. When Skype’s revamped interface launched to desktop users in October, Microsoft told us Highlights was not a priority for desktop integration at this time, based on user feedback. However, the company insisted it still aims to bring Highlights to the desktop in a later release.

The addition of Photo Effects is arriving on Skype for mobile users in the latest update. Skype’s release notes list Photo Effects as “upcoming” in Android version 8.10.0.4 and iOS 8.10.0.5. This version began rolling out on Monday, but will gradually release to the install base over the next week.

Album+ organizes photos with A.I. that runs on your phone, not in the cloud


A new iOS app called Album+ is taking advantage of the increased A.I. capabilities and GPUs in modern iPhones to help people better manage their photos. The app’s features are similar to those found in something like Google Photos – it can also de-duplicate photos, for example, as well as categorize the people, places, and objects it finds in your images. But the difference is that Album+ organizes and ranks photos using on-device, offline machine learning – there’s no need to connect with the cloud, that is.

This allows for increased consumer privacy, the company explains.

“We believe user content privacy will be the main concern for consumers over the next decade,” says Sam Sabri, head of growth at Polarr, the company behind Album+. “No one wants to upload their photos to a server that might leak their behavioral patterns to advertising companies, but most people still need the computing services provided by the cloud, such as image classification and search categorizations,” he says. “Our team spent a lot of time compressing A.I. models to make sure they can run fast and energy-efficient on mobile devices.”

The app also demonstrates how powerful smartphones have become.

Like Google Photos, Album+ can also automatically recognize, categorize and organize the people, objects, places, documents and receipts in your photos. It can remove duplicate photos and other poorly shot images, as well as rank similar photos based on aesthetics. And it offers a variety of tools to help you do more with photos – like a collage maker, and a way to batch edit hundreds of photos at once to do things like apply filters, mass delete, etc.

Above: Album+ finding similar photos

But what’s notable about the app is not necessarily its feature set alone, rather that it’s doing the work on the device.

“We believe we’re the first company that’s able to run A.I. image clustering, face recognition, aesthetic ranking object and scene detection fast and efficient across entire user albums,” says Sabri.

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Polarr is not new to the photo app market.

The company is already cashflow-positive thanks to its flagship product, Polarr Photo Editor, released two years ago. That app has 10 million users and landed on Apple’s “best of the App Store” lists in both 2015 and 2016.

In fact, the success of Polarr Photo Editor led to the creation of Album+, as the company already had a large data set on hand it could use to train its machine learning models. It combined this with public data sets to create its own machine learning technology that’s used to organize and classify iPhone photos.

Because its machine learning requires a more powerful phone, Album+ only runs on iPhone 6 and up. The app also uses different machine learning models that execute at a different speed and accuracy, depending on which device you’re using. On iPhone X, for example, the app will switch to iOS 11’s CoreML framework to run its fastest model, the company says.

The Stanford team of ten worked on Album+ for more than six months ahead of its recent release. Apple has since featured it in the “New Apps We Love section” of the iOS App Store.

However, the consumer version may ultimately serve as a technology demo for Polarr’s developer-facing business. The company has also created an SDK to help other developers and vendors run A.I. offline on devices, and this is now in testing with a few partners.

For consumers, Album+’s full feature set, including unlimited photo indexing, is available via subscription for either $1.99/month or $12.99/year.

The app is available on iOS, iPhone 6 and higher, here.

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