As mainstream social apps focus on video for social expression and embrace more creative tools, like those for making collages, the often more utilitarian Google Photos app will now do the same. The company today announced an upgrade to Google Photos and its app for mobile devices that will better showcase user videos, create visual effects with photos set to music, introduce its own collage editor, etc.
The additions are part of a larger upgrade to Google Photos’ Memories feature, first introduced in 2019.
A combination of something like Stories and Facebook Memories, Google Photos Memories also helps users go back to their old photos, organized into collections at the top of the app’s main screen – where Stories are often found in social apps. . Google Photos last year upgraded Memories using machine learning technology to identify patterns in your photos, and added other types of Memories, like those that highlighted things like events and vacations.
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Now, Google is rolling out another Memories redesign, which introduces more video to the experience.
The service will automatically pick and cut the best snippets from your longer videos using machine learning as part of this improvement, Google says.
The changes come at a time when tech companies are seeing increased user usage of video. Meta earlier this year said Reels accounted for 20% of users’ time spent on Instagram and video overall accounts for 50% of users’ time spent on Facebook, for example. Google Photos is seeing a similar trend. The company claims that TechCrunch video downloads grew 4 times faster than photo downloads over the past two years, which is why it chose to invest in more video tools.
The updated version of Google Photos will also do more with music, including adding music to more memories and putting multiple still photos to music in its “Cinematic Photos” visual effect feature. Launched in 2020, Cinematic Photos leverages machine learning to create 3D versions of your photos by predicting the depth of the image and then animating a smooth panning effect. He later extended this effect to include stitched photos, he called Cinematic Moments, which also give the illusion of a more 3D-like image.
Another new feature set in today’s update focuses on improving creativity and social sharing.
This includes a new feature called Styles, which automatically adds graphic art to your memories by placing them on colored backgrounds, for example. Artists Shantell Martin and Lisa Congdon contributed to this feature at launch.
And as demand for Pinterest’s new collage maker, Shuffles, heats up, Google Photos is jumping on the trend with its own collage editor that will let users select a design, choose and edit photos, and then rearrange their layout using drag-and-drop controls.
Photo memories can also be shared with friends and family, starting with Android with iOS and the web coming soon.
A smaller, but interesting addition – and not noted by Google’s official announcement – involves how you navigate Memories after the update.
Although you can still tap left or right to move between photos in a given memory (as you would with most stories – when moving through Memories you will now swipe up and down.
This UI design choice, of course, is a nod to TikTok, whose vertical video stream has infiltrated so many mainstream apps.
And with Memories becoming more and more video with this update, it’s possible that some users’ retrospectives will now look more like personal, private TikToks than static stories in the future.
The updates are rolling out today to Google Photos and its mobile app.