Microsoft Pix promises to improve iPhone photography, independent of the user

Posted:
in iPhone edited July 2016
Microsoft on Wednesday released Pix, a new photo application that utilizes the company's machine learning skills with a computational photography implementation intended to improve the quality of photos shot on an iPhone 5s or newer.




To assist in composition and automatic image tailoring, Microsoft Pix takes a continuous stream of photos as it is running. The app tracks faces, and sets parameters for exposure on the fly, while the app is open, and even before a picture is taken.

When the user hits the shutter button, the app takes seven frames from the half second preceding the button press, and three after the push, and presents the user with what the app considers to be the best choice, and up to two other options.

The remaining shots not presented to the user are are examined for ways to improve the presented images before they are discarded. Color correction, de-speckling, and removal of image noise are performed automatically by the app with collated data from unused frames.

Images taken with the app can be combined into "cinemagraphs." Unlike Apple's Live Photos function, part of a Pix-generated cinemagraph is in motion, and the rest static. Not every image is selected for the cinemagraph treatment, with the app automatically selecting only "interesting" subjects, according to Microsoft computational photography project lead Josh Weisberg.

Microsoft Pix also can speed up videos using the same technology that the company used in Hyperlapse for Android. Additionally, the app retains conventional mobile app editing tools, filters, and sharing features.

Microsoft claims that it can take up to three seconds for a photo to appear after the user has taken the shot. Initial AppleInsider tests on an iPhone SE and iPhone 6s plus on a myriad of subjects showed about a 1.5 second delay with a dynamic subject, such as a child in motion. A static image, such as the basset hound seen in the above image, processed in well less than a second.

The core of the app, computational photography, shifts the emphasis in photography from optical processes to digital manipulation. Focus of an image after the picture is taken in RAW-format images is an example of the discipline, as are panoramic images stitched together by camera or computer software.

Microsoft Pix is available now on the iOS App Store, and requires iOS 9, and an iPhone 5s or better. The app requires the sixth generation iPod Touch, the iPad Air, the iPad mini 2, or newer. Storage requirements start at 149MB, and grow as photos are taken with the app. The app requests access to the user's photo library, the camera, and location information.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,216member
    Maybe a keystone feature of a relaunched Windows Phone?
  • Reply 2 of 16
    Strangely enough, I find this news to be a halfway decent to maybe even good sign re: Microsoft. Like maybe they are starting to evolve -- this just doesn't sound like something they would have done in the past -- it's more than just doing the minimum while taking advantage of their (past) dominance, and thus somehow beyond the old Microsoft.
    lolliver
  • Reply 3 of 16
    CynflorCynflor Posts: 11member
    I'm a photo editor.  Just compared 3 different mixed-light (part indoor/incandescent, part sunny window-light) compositions, 1 frame each in MSPix and the iPhone (6) native camera app.  MSPix had higher contrast but also less digital artifacts (noise), and more detail visible in darker areas.  Colors were very different, with iPhone native app shifting toward a muddy yellow, while MSPix's colors seemed more natural, and had an overall brighter and crisper look, but with greater detail.  Overall, I wouldn't have guessed these frames came from the same camera, if I hadn't taken them myself within seconds of each other.  I preferred the MSPix results over iPhone native camera app.
  • Reply 4 of 16
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,679member
    These are all the apps Microsoft has on iOS.
    image
    Is Apple really comfortable ceding so much to Google and Microsoft? It gets sickening hearing about great software not made by Apple. When the iPad Pro was first announced it was Microsoft and Adobe apps that were highlighted, not anything from Apple. The last time Apple made a big deal about any of their productivity software was 2013. I get the feeling Apple is transitioning to an operating systems only company.
  • Reply 5 of 16
    uraharaurahara Posts: 181member
    Is Apple really comfortable ceding so much to Google and Microsoft? It gets sickening hearing about great software not made by Apple. When the iPad Pro was first announced it was Microsoft and Adobe apps that were highlighted, not anything from Apple. The last time Apple made a big deal about any of their productivity software was 2013. I get the feeling Apple is transitioning to an operating systems only company.
    Apple originally is a hardware company. Now it makes more emphasis on services like iCloud, AppStore as a distribution platform.
    edited July 2016 lolliverDeelron
  • Reply 6 of 16
    geekmeegeekmee Posts: 279member
    The good news is, the consumer wins when Microsoft has real competition.
    lolliverDeelron
  • Reply 7 of 16
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,679member
    urahara said:
    Is Apple really comfortable ceding so much to Google and Microsoft? It gets sickening hearing about great software not made by Apple. When the iPad Pro was first announced it was Microsoft and Adobe apps that were highlighted, not anything from Apple. The last time Apple made a big deal about any of their productivity software was 2013. I get the feeling Apple is transitioning to an operating systems only company. 
    Apple originally is a hardware company. Now it makes more emphasis on services like iCloud, AppStore as a distribution platform.


    Hmm...in that Walt Mossberg interview Steve Jobs said Apple was a software company. The more users start using 3rd party cross-platform apps the less sticky your ecosystem is. If I use Office and all my stuff is in the cloud it makes it easy to switch between platforms.
  • Reply 8 of 16
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,429member
    Maybe a keystone feature of a relaunched Windows Phone?
    That seems extremely unlikely. They never made a dent in the marketplace and they'd be wasting their time.
    lolliver
  • Reply 9 of 16
    nikon133nikon133 Posts: 2,600member
    These are all the apps Microsoft has on iOS.
    image
    Is Apple really comfortable ceding so much to Google and Microsoft? It gets sickening hearing about great software not made by Apple. When the iPad Pro was first announced it was Microsoft and Adobe apps that were highlighted, not anything from Apple. The last time Apple made a big deal about any of their productivity software was 2013. I get the feeling Apple is transitioning to an operating systems only company.
    Associating device with Pro moniker with software that is generally considered professional/business is not bad practice, imho. Or, in general, having 3rd party software on your platform that will increase compatibility with already accepted standards.
    lolliver
  • Reply 10 of 16
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Cynflor said:
    I'm a photo editor.  Just compared 3 different mixed-light (part indoor/incandescent, part sunny window-light) compositions, 1 frame each in MSPix and the iPhone (6) native camera app.  MSPix had higher contrast but also less digital artifacts (noise), and more detail visible in darker areas.  Colors were very different, with iPhone native app shifting toward a muddy yellow, while MSPix's colors seemed more natural, and had an overall brighter and crisper look, but with greater detail.  Overall, I wouldn't have guessed these frames came from the same camera, if I hadn't taken them myself within seconds of each other.  I preferred the MSPix results over iPhone native camera app.
    With RAW manip coming to IOS 10, it should be even better since they really can do a lot of DSP manipulations without impacting quality that way.
    If you don't have RAW, you always lose something (though perceptually this loss may not matter to you, say losing contrast for color fidelity (or whatever you deem more important).
  • Reply 11 of 16
    These are all the apps Microsoft has on iOS.
    image


    Thanks. I was just about to ask how many freakin' Microsoft apps are there on iOS.

    Next time someone accuses Apple of being a monopoly, all they have to say is that Microsoft has more apps than Apple in Apple's App Store!

  • Reply 12 of 16
    davidwdavidw Posts: 938member
    These are all the apps Microsoft has on iOS.
    image
    Is Apple really comfortable ceding so much to Google and Microsoft? It gets sickening hearing about great software not made by Apple. When the iPad Pro was first announced it was Microsoft and Adobe apps that were highlighted, not anything from Apple. The last time Apple made a big deal about any of their productivity software was 2013. I get the feeling Apple is transitioning to an operating systems only company.
    You have a very funny way of looking at this. What keeps Apple users stuck to the platform is the OS written specifically for their hardware. Even though the OS is really invisible to most users, it contributes greatly to the user experience when running any software. Steve Job had no problem with 3rd party cross platform software, as long as they are available and didn't compromise this user experience. (Remember him making a deal with Microsoft to keep MS Office on the iMac? And not supporting Flash?)

     Apple really only writes software for Apple devices when there was no 3rd party choices or what few 3rd party choices there are, are not as good as their PC counterparts. Apple users would actually leave the platform if popular 3rd party software like Photoshop, MS Office, Roxio Toast, Google Map, Google Search, Kindle Reader, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., were not available on Macs or iDevices.

     The reason why so many computer users are sticking to the PC platform is because of all the 3rd party software and games available for that platform, compared to a Mac. Even if the average PC computer users will never have the need for over 99% of the software available to them. And it's the reason why Apple actually encourages 3rd parties to develop for OSX and iOS. The more 3rd party apps (both software programs and games) available on iOS, the more likely users will stick around. Not because they are stuck using any software programs written by Apple.

     But to be realistic, the only 'great" software that Apple is known for is the Mac OS and iOS, (and maybe iTunes and Final Cut Pro at one time) all their other software has counterparts (in other platforms) that are better or considered the standard and thus way more popular. Even if it doesn't come free with their computer purchase. But OSX and iOS can not exist if it doesn't run 3rd party software that are available. Where would Apple be today if 3rd party software by MS and Adobe were not available on the Mac in the 80's and 90's? Apple strength as a software company is tied to them writing OS's that are directly tied to their hardware. Not writing software programs that are tied to their OS.
    edited July 2016 badmonkwilliamlondon
  • Reply 13 of 16
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 934member
    Cynflor said:
    I'm a photo editor.  Just compared 3 different mixed-light (part indoor/incandescent, part sunny window-light) compositions, 1 frame each in MSPix and the iPhone (6) native camera app.  MSPix had higher contrast but also less digital artifacts (noise), and more detail visible in darker areas.  Colors were very different, with iPhone native app shifting toward a muddy yellow, while MSPix's colors seemed more natural, and had an overall brighter and crisper look, but with greater detail.  Overall, I wouldn't have guessed these frames came from the same camera, if I hadn't taken them myself within seconds of each other.  I preferred the MSPix results over iPhone native camera app.
    Downloaded, tried it and first photo - it crashed my iPhone. So much for a good effort, Microsoft.
  • Reply 14 of 16
    leighrleighr Posts: 168member
    I believe that Microsoft strategy witht their plethora of apps is to maintain a hold on a user base until they can gain traction with a mobile OS. It's then relatively easy to drop features from their apps on rival devices in order to flip users back to them. MS is a master at getting chummy, stealing ideas and leaving you high and dry.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    stanthemanstantheman Posts: 311member
    Maybe a keystone feature of a relaunched Windows Phone?
    If Microsoft is offering the app on iOS, it can not also be used to differentiate Windows in the eyes of consumers. I believe a better explanation is that Microsoft is finally in the business of producing and selling software apps for non-Windows operating systems. With a desktop-Windows monopoly in place (5+ years ago), offering software apps exclusive to Windows offered a means of enhancing the value of the entire platform -- which allowed Microsoft to charge higher licensing fees to PC makers for putting Windows on their machines. Because of rapid growth in mobile computing, however, Microsoft is unable to use app exclusivity as a tool for boosting profits from its Windows product. Mobile Windows is barely in business. That means mobile software development at MSFT can be considered a stand-alone profit (or loss) center. The practice of "tying" apps to the OS is no longer viable (for now, anyway). The same analysis, but in reverse, explains why Apple has not opened up iMessage to Android or Windows devices. By tying iMessage to iOS, Apple increases the value of iOS and adds to the "stickiness" of the platform to consumers.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,378member

    Is Apple really comfortable ceding so much to Google and Microsoft? 
    Maybe if people were willing to pay (decently) for apps, Apple would be more interested.   But they're not.   I can still remember when "programs" that cost a few hundred dollars each seemed like a bargain.   People forget that at one time, you even had to pay for a browser.  

    Besides, just because Microsoft has all those apps doesn't mean that people are using them.   IMO, the disadvantage of the App Store is that there's far too many apps and therefore it's difficult to find either the right app or the best app.    And because there's so many apps, the "hits" become a self-fulfilling prophesy because once they "sell" well, they will keep selling well because it's the first thing users see (similar to the way no one ever goes past the first two pages of Google results).   Frankly, I don't see why most developers bother - only a few make the real money.
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