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Google Photos adds themed 'concept movies' and in-app sharing

Google Photos adds themed 'concept movies' and in-app sharing


Getting emotional

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Since the day it launched, one of Google Photos’ more compelling features has been its automatically generated montage videos. Come home from a trip and within a day or so Google will have stitched your photos and video clips into a mini-movie complete with jaunty music and transitions. Today the company is introducing taking another step in that direction with themed "concept movies": videos generated algorithmically based on their content.

The first concept movie is called "They Grow Up So Fast," and it’s just what you’d think. If you have hundreds of photos and videos of children in Google Photos, the company will begin organizing them into movies. The company says it will pick only your best photos, which means that photos of kids who are blinking or out of focus won’t be included. The feature is aimed at parents, but doting aunts, uncles, and friends may see one of the movies pop up in their Photos feed as well.

On Thursday the company is following up with "Summer of Smiles," which finds your happiest photos from the summer that ends this week and stitches them into a montage. Soon there will be a third concept, "Special Day," that turns recent uploads from weddings, birthday parties, and other celebrations into movies. Each movie runs from 20 seconds to about 2 minutes depending on how many photos Google uses.

"Let's make movies that are emotionally powerful"

Tim Novikoff, who joined Google last year when it acquired his video-editing company, Fly Labs, said the feature takes advantage of Google’s advancements in deep learning and computer vision. The idea, he said, was "let’s leverage this to make movies that are emotionally powerful — that make your really smile, or even make you cry and reminisce and show your family."

More concept movies are planned. "You can imagine where this goes," Novikoff said. "Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Little League highlights, dance recitals. All the things that people do, we can make special movies around them."

The addition of concept movies is part of a broader update to Google Photos that also includes in-app sharing for Android and iOS devices. If your friends and family have Google Photos installed, you can share your photos and videos with them directly using the app’s share sheet. Tap it and your contacts will appear above the traditional share sheet, and any contacts who have Google Photos installed will appear with an app icon next to their face.

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Once you share with your friends, they receive a notification from Google Photos. When they open it they’ll find everything you’ve sent them, and from there they can add the photos to their own libraries or leave a comment. You can also share with contacts who aren’t among the 200 million people who use Google Photos each month — they receive a link to the web album, sent via SMS or email.

Sharing tools are important to Google Photos given its biggest drawback — it doesn’t know who your friends and family are. The fact that Facebook does has given its own photo-sharing app, Moments, a running start as it builds a similar product. As a complete free storage and sharing solution, though, Google Photos still has a big lead. Today’s updates show the company is continuing to press its advantage.