Microsoft Releases Pix App to Improve iPhone Photography

By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2016-07-28 Print this article Print

Enlisting the digital imaging expertise of its Computational Photography Group, Microsoft releases an iOS app that automatically enhances pictures taken with iPhones.

Microsoft has a new app for shutterbugs who don't want to fiddle with the iPhone's camera settings to capture the perfect shot.

The company released an iOS 9 app on July 27 that borrows technologies from its research division to advance the state of smartphone photography and help iPhone users take Instagram-worthy pictures. Dubbed simply Microsoft Pix, the app uses technologies developed by the Computational Photography group within Microsoft Research to capture well-exposed, in-focus photos.

In terms of hardware, Pix supports iPhone 5s and newer Apple smartphones. On the tablet side of the fence, it runs on the iPad Air, Air 2, Mini (2,3 and 4) and Pro.

"Microsoft Pix captures a burst of 10 frames with each shutter click—some from before the tap—and uses artificial intelligence to select up to three of the best, unique shots," explained the company in a July 27 announcement. To help save on precious phone storage space, the unused frames are deleted. Before that happens, Pix nonetheless finds a way to use the unwanted images to improve on the final product.

"Before the remaining frames are deleted, the app uses data from the entire burst 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," continued Microsoft.

To combat ill-timed eye blinks, the team behind the app dug into its facial-recognition algorithms and devised a way to detect whether eyes are open or closed. This so-called open-eye detector ranks images within the 10-frame burst (open eyes higher, closed eyes lower) to help ensure that the photos' subjects look alert and in the moment.

To add a little extra flair to still photos, Pix features Live Image support.

Live Image can be used to create cinemagraphs, or still images that contain some subtle and repetitive motion like a flag fluttering in the background. In Pix, the feature automatically detects interesting activity and compensates for camera movement to create short video loops with a hint of motion.

Also included is Microsoft Hyperlapse, a technology that turns jerky video footage into smooth, sped-up videos. Hyperlapse is also available as a stand-alone app for iOS, Android and Windows.

Of course, Microsoft isn't the only technology giant seeking to enhance the smartphone photography experience.

A new gesture-based Camera app is coming to Android 7 ("Nougat"). Developers and beta testers can now switch to selfie mode with a quick twist of their handsets in the updated Camera 4.1 app. Typically, smartphone camera apps require users to tap a mode-switching icon to activate the front-facing camera.

Also new is the ability to pause and resume live video and new volume button settings. Apart from doubling as a camera shutter, users can configure their physical volume buttons to zoom in and out while recording video.


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