Microsoft today launched Photo Story, a new Windows Phone app that uses computer vision and machine learning to generate videos from photos taken on your phone. You can download the new app now from the Windows Store.
Photo Story, which aims to “help you tell engaging stories using your photos,” is hardly the first mobile photo app to come out of Microsoft. Yet this one is a Microsoft Garage creation. The Microsoft Garage team is behind many “wild projects” (mostly apps aimed at consumers) that the company’s employees dream up and decide to build.
Here is how it works. All you have to do is choose a day, a theme, and a soundtrack. The app will then create a video from the best representative photos of the day, using computer vision to automatically pick the best photos but still letting you customize the choice of photos. It also uses machine learning to produce better and better stories as it learns from your choices. You can then share the resulting story via email or social network, just like any other video.
Photo Story’s algorithm looks for technical quality, such as whether a photo is blurry or the exposure is correct, but it also evaluates how interesting and relevant a photo is. The goal is to avoid duplicates and low-quality photos.
“You can also have a very high-quality photo of a road or a blade of grass, but that’s not necessarily interesting enough to qualify for the story,” Krishnan Ramnath, a senior research software development engineer in Microsoft’s computational photography group, explained. “For example, if you took 200 photos, the algorithm understands that five may not be enough photos. Likewise, it doesn’t choose too many.”
The whole process happens on your phone. The app’s website points this out with an obvious jab at services like Google Photos: “No waiting for your photos to upload to someone’s cloud to be analyzed. Photo Story scans the photos near the one you pick and selects the best images to represent that day.”
Photo Story is available for all phones running Windows Phone 8.1, and works with Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana (just say, “Story from today” to get it started). The company didn’t share plans to bring the app to Android or iOS, a move which will likely depend on its success.