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Microsoft pokes fun at Apple’s panoramas with new multidirectional tool in Pix

Microsoft Pix
The iPhone’s native camera app can shoot panoramas, but Microsoft thinks Apple’s take is a bit too one-sided — literally. In an update to Microsoft Pix for iOS, Microsoft has announced new AI-powered photo tools, including the ability to shoot a panorama and move the smartphone any direction you want. The new panorama tool, called Photosynth, is also joined by the option to create a comic strip from a video.

Inside Apple’s native camera app, users can take a panorama by moving the camera from left to right. With Microsoft Pix’s newest feature, users can move the camera left, right, up or down — and can even change directions after they’ve already started shooting. The tools allows users to create vertical panoramas (to say, capture an entire waterfall) and to adjust midshoot.

The updated panorama tool will also allow users to stitch together higher-resolution images of the scene with a more traditional aspect ratio rather than that elongated panorama format. Because users can move the phone sideways and then also go back and move the device up and down, they can capture more than the traditional wide strip. The update, Microsoft says, allows users to adjust the panorama based on the scene in front of them.

“The idea came after some frustrations I had when trying to take a picture of Snoqualmie Falls,” said Josh Weisberg, a principal program manager for Microsoft’s AI and research division. “I didn’t want to have to choose which part of the scene to capture, and I wanted it all with detail. Photosynth means you no longer have to choose. I can now capture the whole scene in a way that feels natural. As with all Pix features, we have also worked to give the best image quality by introducing more intelligent ways to compute exposure and stitching.”

Photosynth is based on a separate app of the same name Microsoft launched several years ago but discontinued earlier this year, building the panorama features into Microsoft Pix instead.

The enhanced panorama tools come along with Pix Comix in today’s update. Pix Comix uses AI to determine the highlights of a video clip. Microsoft says the AI program looks for things like faces with eyes open and interesting scenes, along with avoiding things like blur.

Once the program finds the best frames, the app puts three images into a comic strip format. Users can then expand on what the AI developed by adding characteristic comic speech bubbles with custom text.

The idea of using AI to choose the best shots is growing, from use in GoPro’s video app to options to pick the best photos in the online version of Lightroom. Google Research recently launched a similar app called Storyboard, which is Android-only but allows users to choose the layout of the comic strip.

The new panorama and comic strip features are now available with a free download of Microsoft Pix from the App Store.

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