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Your photos come to life thanks to new emotionsAR service

Remember those moving newspaper and book photos in the Harry Potter movies and books? It may not be long before our technology catches up with the wizardry of JK Rowling.

The idea behind the new EmotionsAR Pro service is to offer a way to bring our memories to life using augmented reality. It brings still images to life, just like those moving newspapers and books in the Harry Potter universe.

“This is an entirely new category of value-added, augmented reality products,” EmotionsAR CEO Josep Balleste told Digital Trends. “Static wedding pictures, event photography and marketing imagery can all be brought to life with video, speech, voiceover, music and interactive buttons.”

Related: Get past the gimmicks and gaze upon the future of augmented reality apps

Imagine being able to hold your phone over a wedding photo in the album and have a short video file play with a music track, or scan a photo of a person in a business environment and get a short voice-over presentation with links to contact details and a website. There are lots of possibilities to get creative with something like this.

EmotionsAR Pro brings still images to life, just like those moving newspapers and books in the Harry Potter universe.

The basic concept is that you have a video file in MP4 format. You take a still image from the video and, using the EmotionsAR interface in your Web browser, you attach the video file to it. You also have the option to attach a separate sound track, and you can add three interactivity buttons. Your choices are hyperlink, email, or phone. The video size is currently limited to 20MB and it’s suggested that you keep the length below one minute.

It takes a few seconds for the “Memory” to be created. You’ll need to download the free EmotionsAR app for Android or iOS and install it on your phone. You may also want to print the still image out. Once the Memory is ready, you can use your phone to scan the still image with the app, and it will trigger the video. The clever image recognition software is cloud-based and that ties you to the EmotionsAR app.

We tried it out and found it easy to create a new Memory. The interface is pretty straightforward and it doesn’t take long to work through the process. We tried scanning the image from our monitor screen and, though the EmotionsAR Android app recognized the image, the video didn’t work properly. The app looped on recognizing the image: It would start to play the video, and then jump back to searching again. After a little tinkering with the distance though, it started to work properly.

You may run into problems if your Wi-Fi connection isn’t solid, if there’s any reflection on the image that might distort it, or if the image you’ve chosen doesn’t have enough contrast. We also tried printing the image out as a physical photo and it worked a lot better. The app recognized the image quickly each time and loaded the video within a few seconds.

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This is being billed as a service for professional photographers right now.

“By putting our advanced technology into the hands of creative professionals in the photo industry we’ve created a tool that enables them to create more personalized products and new services,” says Balleste.

But there are plans to open it up for hobbyists and offer a premium service with new pricing models later this year.

The price is definitely a potential sticking point. If you wanted to keep a Memory indefinitely then it could cost you a lot of money. A single memory creation was 60 credits and that means your Memory will be stored on the EmotionsAR servers for 30 days, or 100 views, whichever comes first. You can set up automatic renewals, and it costs 40 credits for another 100 views, or 20 credits for an extra 30 days.

If you’re wondering what that is in real money, credits can be acquired at a cost of 250 for 5 euros ($5.36). There’s a sliding scale, so the more you purchase, the cheaper they get. At the top end of the scale right now 500 euros ($536) will buy you 33,000 credits.

In case you’re wondering, you retain ownership of all your content and EmotionsAR promises to respect intellectual property rights and privacy. Your content is uploaded to and stored on the EmotionsAR server, but you can download it at any time. When your credits or views run out, the content is automatically deleted from the server.

“We want to be the Instagram of augmented reality,” says Balleste.

If the experience is polished a little and the pricing moves down to free, perhaps that ambition can be realized. Based on our time with the service we can certainly see it being popular, everyone we showed was suitably impressed by the effect. Check out the EmotionsAR website for more details or to try it out for yourself.