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Microsoft's Pix for iPhone: Now AI gives your photos an art makeover


Microsoft’s deep learning gives your iPhone photos an artistic makeover in a variety of styles.

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has added a new editing feature in its Pix iPhone camera app that lets you transform photos into styles reminiscent of famous works of art.

When Microsoft launched Pix, it originally used AI for the serious business of improving the quality photos taken on an iPhone. It did this by taking a burst of snaps and suggesting the best one, as well as tidying up images with better lighting and color.

Pix Styles rather is meant to be fun, allowing users to transform images into styles that mimic “masterpiece paintings and artsy photos” in galleries of Amsterdam, Paris and New York.

It also has several effects like ‘glass’, which gives the image a stained-glass look, and ‘fire’ that adds a nightmarish touch to images with flames and charcoal colors.

Microsoft stresses that these styles and effects are not filters because the styles add transfer texture, pattern and tones rather than just uniformly changing colors.

The feature is available now with 11 choices, including glass, petals, Bacău, charcoal, heart, fire, Honolulu, zing, pop, glitter, and ripples.

Pix Styles was a collaborative effort by a team at Microsoft’s Asia research lab and Skype.

Microsoft doesn’t offer any details about what paintings it used to train its AI model for Styles but says that a trove of them was used “to learn the essence of what makes a given style of painting recognizable”.

The company has of course been dabbling in AI and arts over the past year with projects such as Recognition, which used AI to find real-life images that closely resembled famous artworks at the Tate Britain gallery.

Projects such as these give Microsoft access to large sets of data to trains it AI models. It also trained a deep-learning model on several hundred Rembrandt paintings to create an artwork in the style of the Dutch master.

While these projects relied heavily on Microsoft’s cloud for processing, the Pix editing feature only uses the iPhone for creating artworks, which means it won’t burden users’ mobile data plans.

Microsoft will release more styles and effects in the coming weeks, as well as a second feature called Pix Paintings, which creates a time-lapse of the artistic makeover taking place.

Paintings isn’t available yet but Josh Weisberg, a principal program manager in Microsoft’s Computational Photography Group has posted a few samples of it in action on Twitter.

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