Google has released a trio of free photo apps and these were created as experiments by different departments of the company. The mobile apps include

  • a photo booth which can detect a user posing,
  • a tool that turns videos into a stylised comic book panel,
  • and a way to remix videos like a DJ’s turntable.

The company is calling the free downloads Appsperiments (a not very witty combination of the words apps and experiments). The tools offer a peek into the future of smartphone photography, which will increasingly rely on effects created by software.

The apps, which are available on the iOS App Store and Google Play, give Google a way to test out more experimental features to see how users respond, the company explains in an announcement on its Google Research blog.

The three apps in question are called Storyboard, Selfissimo!, and Scrubbies.

Google’s Storyboard app turns videos into comic strips.

First up is the Android-only Storyboard turns videos into single-page comic layouts on your device. This free app uses artificial intelligence to analyze a video and select “interesting” frames to create a single-page, comic-style layout by applying one of six different visual styles.

Available both for Android and iOS is Selfissimo, as the name suggests, focuses on selfies. The post on Google’s Research blog says that the app eliminates that awkwardness users experience when trying to reach for the shutter button with their arm extended. Described as “an automated selfie photographer,” Selfissimo! takes a black-and-white shot whenever you stop moving.

Selfissimo! is an automated selfie photographer.

Last up is the iOS-only Scrubbies, which lets you scratch your video like a DJ’s turntable to get the desired effect. Scrubbies lets you manipulate the speed and direction of video playback to create visual loops of selected moments. “Scrubbing with one finger plays the video. Scrubbing with two fingers captures the playback so you can save or share it,” the blog post says.

The trio of apps is the first installment of a series of photography ‘appsperiments’ that Google plans to release.

“Our appsperimental approach was inspired in part by Motion Stills, an app developed by researchers at Google that converts short videos into cinemagraphs and time lapses using experimental stabilization and rendering technologies. Our appsperiments replicate this approach by building on other technologies in development at Google,” says Alex Kauffmann, Interaction Researcher at the company.

Scrubbies lets you remix videos like a DJ

The ‘Motion Stills experiment was eventually baked into the main Google Photos app. These new ‘appsperiments’ could see similar integrations if testing turns out to be a success.

The battle for your camera

These new apps come at a time when tech giants are increasingly pushing for deeper software integration of Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence into cameras.

In March, Facebook introduced two new cameras and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that this was the first step to creating an augmented reality platform. Note that during the F8 conference, the company opened its augmented reality platform to developers. Developers can now employ image recognition technology to create camera effects, designs, code-driven animations, etc.

The latest flagship handsets from Google and Apple also have a strong focus on the camera and it’s integrated software. Google has added Google Lens, a camera-based AI platform to its Photos app. Apple’s recent acquisition of Shazam has led to speculation that Shazam’s AR technology may be used to build a competitor to Lens for the iPhone.