Google Photos adds Chromecast support, album sharing, refined searching

google photos new features photo labels 001
Google Photo Labels
At its press conference, Google announced the first big update to Google Photos since its May 28 unveil, adding more to the service it stripped out of Google+. The new features include the shared albums, Chromecast support, and enhanced search and labeling.

As the name suggests, shared albums let you invite friends and family to add their photos to a particular album – for example a birthday where everyone attended, but different devices were used to take photos and videos. Another example Google Photos director Anil Sabharwal demoed on stage had him sharing an album with his mother to keep her in the loop about what’s happening with her grandchildren. Whenever photos are added, everyone who’s invited to join the album will get a notification. It’s very similar to photo sharing in Apple’s iCloud, but Google Photos is available on a variety of devices. This feature, which makes Google Photos more social among the people close to you, will roll out later this year.

Perhaps more interesting is Google’s continued use of machine learning to better organize and search for photos. You can now label collections of similar faces, and Sabharwal says these labels remain private. The private labels are used to help you refine your searches, using compound words. For example, instead of typing a name and pulling up hundreds of photos of that person, you can type the name and an activity or event, and Google Photos will search for only those photos, using facial recognition and scene analysis. This is to help a user find exactly what he/she is looking for, quicker. This function is available for Android this week, and will roll out later for Web and iOS.

Google Photos will also support Chromecast, available this week on Android and soon on iOS. The app will automatically detect a nearby Chromecast device on the same network, and allow you to cast photos to a television; you can even cast animated GIFs. A nice component is that you can cast and leave a photo on a TV while you search for photos on the app; because you aren’t mirroring everything that you see, you can show only the photos you want to cast – saving private content for your eyes only.

In related news, Google also announced new camera specs and features in the upcoming Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P smartphones. Both utilize 12.3-megapixel sensors from Sony with 1.55-micron-sized pixels. Unlike the 1.2-micrn pixels in the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, Google says these larger pixels are able to collect 92 percent more light. Larger pixels allow for shorter exposure times and less motion blur, says Google’s VP of Android engineering, Dave Burke, without the need for optical image stabilization. This is particularly useful in low-light situations, allowing for less graininess and better tone mapping. Autofocus is also faster by using laser detection. Google didn’t reveal the actual sensor size, and the photos it displayed from an iPhone 6S and new Nexus phone clearly show the differences. However, Apple is using some interesting technology to deal with the smaller pixels, so we’ll hold judgment.

Other camera features include slow-motion video (120 frames per second in the Nexus 5X and 240 fps in the 6P; Google says the Google Photos app will let you edit the area to slow down); “smart burst” of 30 frames per second, which can be turned into animate GIFs (this is a bit different than the iPhone 6S’ Live Photos, which is recording short videos of 15 fps); and the double-tap of the power button to launch the camera.

Mobile

Google’s radical Gmail redesign is finally rolling out on Android

Google is slowly but surely giving its apps a refresh, modernizing them and ensuring that they're easy to use. The latest app to get a redesign is the Gmail app for Android, which has been redesigned with a few tweaks.
Smart Home

OK Google, what else can you do? The best tips and tricks for Google Home

The Home functions in a similar fashion to its main competitor, the Amazon Echo, but has the added benefit of select Google services. Here are few tips to help you make the most of the newfangled device.
Smart Home

Walmart slashes prices on Google Home during its Presidents’ Day sale

Walmart slashes prices on Google Home during its Presidents' Day sale. Whether you're taking your first step in configuring a smart home or expanding to every room, Walmart has excellent sale prices for all the key components.
Mobile

Love Playmoji pack adds animated Valentine’s stickers to your Pixel photos

Valentine's Day is here, and to celebrate, Google has added the "Love Playmoji" pack to the Playground feature on its Google Pixel camera. The new feature will add cute AR-driven extras to your Pixel photos.
Photography

Fujifilm XP140 squeezes more durability, low-light ability into a waterproof cam

Fujifilm's waterproof compact can now head even further underwater. The Fujifilm XP140 features several upgrades, including a more durable body, a wider ISO range for low light, and expanded auto modes.
Photography

From f/1.2 primes to the mysterious DS, here are Canon’s upcoming RF lenses

Canon's EOS R mirrorless series will gain six new lenses this year. Canon just shared a list of six lenses under development, including four zooms and two prime lenses. One has a mysterious new feature called Defocus Smoothing.
Mobile

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.
Photography

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…
Photography

Photography news: Wacom’s slimmer pen, Leica’s cinema special edition

In this week's photography news, Wacom launches a new slimmer pen for pro users. Leica's upcoming M10-P is designed for cinema, inside and out, with built-in cinema modes in the updated software.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Be careful who you bokeh, jokes Apple’s latest iPhone ad

With iPhone sales under pressure, you'd think there wouldn't be much to laugh about at Apple HQ. But the company has seen fit to inject some humor into its latest handset ad, which highlights the camera's Depth Control feature.
Photography

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.
Photography

Luminar’s libraries gain speed, drop need for you to manually import images

Luminar 3 just got a performance boost. Skylum Luminar 3.0.2 has improved speed over December's update, which added the long-promised libraries feature giving editors a Lightroom alternative.
Photography

When you're ready to shoot seriously, these are the best DSLRs you can buy

For many photographers the DSLR is the go-to camera. With large selection of lenses, great low-light performance, and battery endurance, these DSLRs deliver terrific image quality for stills and videos.