Technology

Google’s new iOS app turns Live Photos into GIFs

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When Apple released the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus last year, it introduced the Live Photos feature – which brings still photos to life by capturing the moments just before and after the shutter button is pushed. Live Photos are played by applying pressure on the phone display using 3D Touch when it is being viewed. However, Apple does not offer a way to natively save Live Photos as animated GIFs or videos. Google has solved that problem by launching a free iOS app called Motion Stills.

Not only does Google’s Motion Stills app allow you to turn Live Photos into looping GIFs and videos, the app also has advanced stabilization and rendering capabilities if your photos are blurry or shaky. After the Motion Stills app saves the Live Photos as looping GIFs, it can be shared directly using your favorite messaging app. And there is also an option to upload the videos to YouTube. Many people are using the Motion Stills app to create videos from Live Photos and then share it on Instagram.

In a blog post, Google said it pioneered this technology by stabilizing hundreds of millions of YouTube videos and creating GIF animations from photo bursts on Google Photos. “Our algorithm uses linear programming to compute a virtual camera path that is optimized to recast videos and bursts as if they were filmed using stabilization equipment, yielding a still background or creating cinematic pans to remove shakiness,” said Google researchers Ken Conley and Matthias Grundmann. “Our challenge was to take technology designed to run distributed in a data center and shrink it down to run even faster on your mobile phone. We achieved a 40x speedup by using techniques such as temporal subsampling, decoupling of motion parameters, and using Google Research’s custom linear solver, GLOP. We obtain further speedup and conserve storage by computing low-resolution warp textures to perform real-time GPU rendering, just like in a videogame.”

Through Google Motion Stills, you create movies with your Live Photos by swiping right. Google Motion Stills removes blurry frames and it attempts to crop out moments where you are putting your phone back into your pocket. The app also automatically determines the optimal starting and ending points. Google Motion Stills even works offline so you don’t have to worry about consuming data to create the GIFs and videos.

Google did not reveal whether it will be releasing a Motion Stills app for Android. But Android does not have a feature that is like Live Photos yet. However, there are a number of third-party Android apps offering functionality that is similar to Live Photos such as Fyuse, Phogy and GIF Camera. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge devices also have a feature called Motion Photos that records a short video before you tap on the shutter button.

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