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Introducing Appsperiments: Exploring the Potentials of Mobile Photography

December 11, 2017

Posted by Alex Kauffmann, Interaction Researcher, Google Research

Each of the world's approximately two billion smartphone owners is carrying a camera capable of capturing photos and video of a tonal richness and quality unimaginable even five years ago. Until recently, those cameras behaved mostly as optical sensors, capturing light and operating on the resulting image's pixels. The next generation of cameras, however, will have the capability to blend hardware and computer vision algorithms that operate as well on an image's semantic content, enabling radically new creative mobile photo and video applications.

Today, we're launching the first installment of a series of photography appsperiments: usable and useful mobile photography experiences built on experimental technology. Our "appsperimental" approach was inspired in part by Motion Stills, an app developed by researchers at Google that converts short videos into cinemagraphs and time lapses using experimental stabilization and rendering technologies. Our appsperiments replicate this approach by building on other technologies in development at Google. They rely on object recognition, person segmentation, stylization algorithms, efficient image encoding and decoding technologies, and perhaps most importantly, fun!

Storyboard (Android) transforms your videos into single-page comic layouts, entirely on device. Simply shoot a video and load it in Storyboard. The app automatically selects interesting video frames, lays them out, and applies one of six visual styles. Save the comic or pull down to refresh and instantly produce a new one. There are approximately 1.6 trillion different possibilities!

Selfissimo! (iOS, Android) is an automated selfie photographer that snaps a stylish black and white photo each time you pose. Tap the screen to start a photoshoot. The app encourages you to pose and captures a photo whenever you stop moving. Tap the screen to end the session and review the resulting contact sheet, saving individual images or the entire shoot.

Scrubbies (iOS) lets you easily manipulate the speed and direction of video playback to produce delightful video loops that highlight actions, capture funny faces, and replay moments. Shoot a video in the app and then remix it by scratching it like a DJ. Scrubbing with one finger plays the video. Scrubbing with two fingers captures the playback so you can save or share it.

Try them out and tell us what you think using the in-app feedback links. The feedback and ideas we get from the new and creative ways people use our appsperiments will help guide some of the technology we develop next.

These appsperiments represent a collaboration across many teams at Google. We would like to thank the core contributors Andy Dahley, Ashley Ma, Dexter Allen, Ignacio Garcia Dorado, Madison Le, Mark Bowers, Pascal Getreuer, Robin Debreuil, Suhong Jin, and William Lindmeier. We also wish to give special thanks to Buck Bourdon, Hossein Talebi, Kanstantsin Sokal, Karthik Raveendran, Matthias Grundmann, Peyman Milanfar, Suril Shah, Tomas Izo, Tyler Mullen, and Zheng Sun.