One of the most impressive demos at Google I/O started with a photo of a woman in front of a waterfall. The presenter touched the woman on stage, picked her up and moved her to the other side of the picture, the software automatically filling in the space where she once stood. Then they touched the cloudy sky and it instantly turned a brighter cloudless blue. The image was changed in a few seconds.

Dubbed Magic Editor, the AI-powered tool certainly lived up to its name during the demo. This is the type of tool that Google has been building for years. It already has several AI-powered photo editing features in its arsenal, including Magic Eraser, which lets you quickly remove people or objects from the background of an image. But this kind of tool takes things up a notch by allowing you to change the content — and potentially the meaning — of a photo in a more significant way.

Magic Editor transforms a photo in seconds.
GIF: Google

While it’s clear the tool isn’t perfect — and it still doesn’t have a firm release date — Google’s ultimate goal is clear: to make perfecting photos as easy as tapping or dragging something on your screen. The company touts the tool as a way to “do sophisticated editing without expert-level editing tools,” allowing you to use the power of AI to separate and transform parts of your photo. This includes the ability to enhance the sky, move and scale objects, and delete parts of the image with just a few taps.

Google’s Magic Editor tries to condense all the steps it takes to do a similar edit in a program like Photoshop into one tap — or at least that’s what the demo looks like. In Photoshop, for example, you have trouble using the Content-Aware Move tool (or any other method of your choice) to pick up and move a subject within an image. However, the photo may still not look right, which means you’ll need to grab other tools like the Clone Stamp tool or perhaps the Spot Healing Brush to fix any residual artifacts or mismatched backgrounds. It’s not the most complicated process ever, but as with most professional creative tools, there is a certain learning curve for people new to the program.

Given that Photoshop and some other image editing software are expensive and quite unintuitive, I’m a big fan of Google making its photo editing tools free and more accessible. But putting powerful and incredibly easy-to-use photo editing tools in the hands of anyone who downloads Google Photos could change the way we edit and view photos. There’s long been a debate about how much a photo can be edited without being an image anymore, and Google’s tools are bringing us closer to a world where we touch every image to make it perfect, whether it’s reality or not.

Samsung has recently turned its attention to the power of AI-enhanced photos with ‘Cosmic Zoom’, which lets you take incredible pictures of the Moon on its newer Galaxy devices. In March, a Reddit user tried using Space Zoom on a nearly unsalvageable image of the Moon and found that Samsung had added craters and other patches that weren’t actually there. Not only does this run the risk of creating a “fake” image of the Moon, but it also leaves real space photographers in an odd spot, as they spend years mastering the art of capturing the night sky. presented with fakes.

Editing sequences with Google’s Magic Editor.
Image: Google

To be fair, there are many similar photography-enhancing features built into smartphone cameras. As my colleague Allison Johnson points out, mobile photography already fakes a lot of things, whether by applying filters or blurring the photo, and enhanced images are nothing new. But Google’s Magic Editor can make a more serious form of forgery easier and more appealing. In blog post explaining the toolGoogle makes it look like we’re all on a quest for perfection, noting that the Magic Editor will give you “greater control over the final look and feel of your photo,” while also giving you the chance to fix the missed opportunity that will make the photo look so good. his best.

Call me some kind of weird photo purist, but I’m not a fan of editing a photo in a way that alters my memory of an event. If I was taking a wedding photo and the sky was cloudy, I wouldn’t think about changing it to something better. Maybe – just can be — I might consider moving the surroundings or enhancing the sky on a picture I post on social media, but that’s a little disingenuous. But then again, that’s just me. I could still see a lot of people using the Magic Editor to perfect their photos for social media, which adds to the larger conversation about what exactly we should consider a photo to be, and whether or not people are obligated to disclose it.

Google calls its Magic Editor an “experimental technology” and it will be available for “selecting” before releasing its Pixel phones to everyone later this year. If Google is already adding AI-powered photo editing tools to Photos, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before smartphone makers integrate these one-touch tools, such as changing the sky or moving an object, directly into the phone’s camera software. . Sometimes the beauty of a photograph does its flawlessness. It seems that smartphone manufacturers are trying to push us further and further away from this idea.

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