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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Google boosts photo offerings to rival Facebook

Google is digging deeper into its technology toolkit to turn its social networking service into a more formidable threat to Facebook, sprucing up its photo features at a time when sharing snapshots online and on mobile gadgets is growing
more popular.
Many of the 41 new features being added to Google Plus beginning Wednesday will draw upon the computing power, machine learning, algorithms, semantics analysis and other innovations that established Google's search engine as the most influential force on the internet.
'All of these features collectively put more of 'the Google' into Google Plus,' said Vic Gundotra, Google's senior vice president of engineering, in an interview. 'This will give people a powerful reason to come to Google Plus.'
But the most compelling new attraction may be a new photo-management tool that promises to test how much control people want to cede to computers. It will also further blur the lines between a real moment in time and augmented reality.
Google promises the feature will pick out the best shots from a wide assortment of photos.
The automatic photo selection is done by calling upon Google's knowledge of the elements that make up a visually pleasing picture, coupled with facial recognition technology and a vast database that helps tie together the relationships of people appearing in a photo.
Google says its computers will recognise the best photos featuring family members or close friends of a person who uploads a bunch of pictures to Plus.
'You have amazing images of the most precious image of your life,' Gundotra told a software developers conference Wednesday as he discussed the additions to Google Plus. 'But if we are honest with each other photos are very labour intensive.'
In an effort to get more photos onto the Plus network, Google is offering to back up all pictures taken on a mobile device, as soon as they're snapped. To accommodate the increased volume, Google Plus will now provide each account holder with up to 15 gigabytes of storage for full-resolution photos.
Another new photo feature promises to stitch together a sequence of photos taken of the same group of people or a panoramic scene. This stitching system can be used to create a single photo that pulls the best shots of everyone featured in a series of pictures. It will also produce an animated clip featuring the motions of people captured in a succession of photos taken against the same background.
By appealing to people's photo fondness, Google is hoping to make Plus a more useful and fun place to hang out than Facebook. But Google Plus still hasn't proven it can become as much of a magnet as Facebook, largely because people had already established their online social circles at Facebook.

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