Google Photos Gets More Intelligent

Alan Bullock
May 19, 2017

Google Photos IconOver the last few years, Google has launched a number of mobile products and services that included various degrees of intelligence. At the Google I/O tech-fest, which kicked off on May 17 in Mountain View, CA, the company signaled a significant shift toward intelligent products and services, many of which happen to be mobile. Included in the many announcements were three new features for Google Photos, the company’s photo storage and organization service that was launched two years ago.

Suggested Sharing is targeted at those people who promise to share photos of events and outings with friends and family members, but never quite get around to doing so. It uses machine learning (including facial recognition) to remind users to share, as well as suggest which photos to share and the people with whom they should be shared. The user can choose to review the photos and the recipients before they are shared. Recipients who are Google Photos users can choose to add some or all of the shared photos to their own collections. If they also have photos from the same event, Google Photos will choose the best ones and suggest that they share those back with the same group of people. Recipients who are not Google Photos users can enjoy the shared photos in a web experience.

Google Photos Suggested Sharing and Shared Libraries

Shared Libraries automatically (with permission) shares all or some of a user’s photos with one or more other people. Shared photos can be limited to just those of specific people (through face recognition) or those taken after a certain date. For example, as shown at Google I/O, a husband might choose to share all new photos of his kids with his wife. The recipient can choose to automatically save all of the shared photos, or just those that contain specific people, into his or her own Google Photos library.

“We know that sharing doesn’t always happen through apps and screens. There’s still something pretty special about looking at, and even gathering around, a printed photo.”

With those words, Google VP Anil Sabharwal introduced the third major update for Google Photos: Photo Books. He went on to say, “But printing photos and albums today is hard. You have to hunt across devices and accounts to find the right photos, select the best among the duplicates and blurry images, upload them to a printing service, and then arrange them across dozens of pages. It can take hours of sitting in front of a computer just to do one thing.”

It was as if he was reading from the results of InfoTrends’ 2016 U.S. Photo Merchandise Survey, in which respondents said that one of the top reasons for abandoning a photo book project before ordering was that it was too difficult to decide which pictures to use. Once again, Google Photos users will have the benefit of machine intelligence to automatically select the best photos from an event and arrange them into a photo book that is ready to review and order with just a few clicks.

Near the end of the Photos portion of the keynote session, Mr. Sabharwal also announced that later this year, Google Lens and its vision-based computing capabilities will be integrated with Google Photos, recognizing people, places, and things of interest in user’s photos and providing useful information from online sources right there in the app.

Google Lens in Google Photos

InfoTrends’ Opinion
On today’s Internet, cloud storage and photo printing services are a dime a dozen, and most of them are quite good at what they do—store stuff and print stuff. With this week’s announcements, Google Photos has leapfrogged the competition by using intelligent imaging tools to help users store, organize, share, and print their increasingly large collection of personal photos. Who will make the next move?

If you missed it, here is a link to the Photos portion of the Google I/O Keynote.

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