On Wednesday, Microsoft announced Pix, a new app that it said can give the iPhone camera "an artificial brain." The app could help business users save time documenting projects, and take better photos for corporate social media.
Pix was born at Microsoft's Computational Photography Group. The app works by taking 10 photos every time you click the shutter, and then uses artificial intelligence (AI) to choose the best three to present to the user.
A blog post announcing the app explained that it uses data from the burst of photos to "remove noise, and then intelligently brightens faces, beautifies skin and adjusts the picture's color and tone. These best, enhanced images are ready in about a second."
Microsoft Pix can also take any physical motion captured in the burst of photos and apply it to one of the stills to create an image with looped motion, called a "Live Image." The current generation iPhone already includes the "Live Photos" feature that captures a GIF-like image, but this seems to be a bit different in that it stabilizes the surrounding image and only animates sections of the photo, like a river flowing in the background. Google Photos also has a similar feature where it uses intelligence to combine photos it thinks were taken in sequence to make a moving image through a feature called "Motion Stills."
The goal of the Pix app is to add "a lot of extra value" to smartphone cameras, without a lot of work. The interface of the app is simple, and it purposefully offers only a few options so that users don't get overwhelmed with a Photoshop-esque experience.
"They are building this for people who aren't photographers but who like to take pictures—and would like to take better pictures—but don't want to take the time to learn what goes into making better pictures," Reed Hoffman, a photography consultant who tested the beta version of Pix, said in the blog post.
For example, part of the algorithm is geared around detecting if eyes are open or closed, and the app prioritizes images with open eyes. If you're familiar with the square that appears around a face when you open your smartphone's camera—that's what this technology is built on. Another feature stabilizes images, to make it easier to take clear photos without a tripod.
Microsoft Pix integrates with the iPhone camera roll, and works with the iPhone 5S and newer. It also comes with Microsoft Hyperlapse for mobile, which speeds up long videos into shorter time-lapse videos.
Smartphone photography has come a long way over the past decade, and phones have quickly become the de facto camera for many consumers and business users alike. If Microsoft Pix can deliver on its promises, it could provide SMBs and social media marketers with a simple tool to get work done more efficiently.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Microsoft recently announced Microsoft Pix, an iPhone app that uses AI to help users take better photos and create live cinemagraphs.
- Microsoft Pix takes 10 photos at a time and uses algorithms to better highlight faces and enhance the color and tone of a photo.
- Apps like Pix could prove a valuable tool for SMBs and social media professionals who rely on photography for marketing purposes.
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Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.