Moju is the app that turns your static photos into animated, living memories

moju is the app that turns your static photos into animated living memories
With the twist of an iPhone, the Moju app turns static photos into an animated experience. The app is designed to give users a new way to consume their photos. Les Shu / Digital Trends; Kazuhiko Ohashi / Moju
Instagram, currently the most popular digital photo-sharing service, relies on what is essentially an old-fashioned medium: 2D photography. What if users could apply modern effects that make for a more interactive experience? That’s the idea behind a free app called Moju, an Instagram-like social network that goes beyond static photography.

After launching Moju on an iPhone (it’s iOS only right now), you could easily mistake the user interface for Instagram’s: images are square, and you can favorite a photo and add comments, scroll up the screen to explore content, and follow users. But, twist the phone left and right, and you see the images come alive: It could be a montage of different photos celebrating a person’s birthday, a brief history of a child growing up from baby to toddler, a stop-motion of toys moving around, or a time-lapse animation of a train arriving at a station. Design website Houzz uses it to show the various interiors of a house. It’s this 3D effect that makes Moju different from other services.

Moju isn’t exactly revolutionary: It’s essentially merging a series of JPEG images (minimum of two photos) to create the animation – similar to an animated GIF – and tied to the twisting of the phone. The animated effect can be viewed via the app or Moju’s website (instead of twisting a phone, you slide your mouse cursor across the image), or exported as a movie file (you can also download other users’ public Mojus as a video). Movies are compressed and frames are spread out to fill the max 24 frames. Popular among users is the Spinning Selfie (searchable via #spinningselfie), where self-portraits are taken with animated backgrounds, or repurposing Instagram photos as collages.

But unlike Vine or Instagram’s video feature, you aren’t shooting a short video file, although the capture process is similar (you can also turn a prerecorded video into a Moju image). And unlike the app Seene, you aren’t creating a perspective-shift view of a static image. Moju plays in the same ballpark as these apps, but it’s delivering a unique experience.

“It’s different in the sense that we’re not necessarily reinventing the capture side of things, but really we’re creating something that’s the new metaphor for consumption,” says Mok Oh, Moju’s founder. “It’s a personalized memory machine.”

And that’s Moju’s goal: to build a new way for people to consume their 2D images. According to Oh, the app’s conception was based around a collection of memories. Oh says today’s smartphones are excellent for capturing images, but the problem is how we consume them afterward.

“I ask everyone, ‘you take lot of pictures, but when was the last you actually looked at them?’,” Oh says. “We wanted to create something that anybody is able to use it, but consume it in such a different way that they would love it.”

“A summer of moments you capture in the videos or photos that you have.”

Think of Mojus, as Oh puts it, “A summary of moments you capture in the videos or photos that you have. When you take a picture, there’s no limit to how many you can take. But if you look at how people consume their photos – you swipe one picture at a time, [and you may] see 16 of the same picture – you have to look through all of them and figure out which one is the best one. On the video side of things, it’s linear; if it’s a minute long, it’s 50 seconds too long.

“What we really want to do is create what we call a medium medium, where you can import photos and videos or you can take capture right now, and be able to consume really fast. You don’t lose any of the photo or video capabilities, and you can just capture however way you want, but you are able to consume them as a more high-fidelity memory.”

Moju might seem like another Instagram wannabe or a copycat, but Oh brings plenty of engineering experience to the table. As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, Oh studied computer science, graphics, and vision, after receiving his undergraduate degree in art. Prior to starting Moju, Oh was the chief scientist at PayPal, leading divisions handling big data; oversaw mobile-based technologies around location information and commerce at Where Inc. (now a PayPal subsidiary); and founded a mapping and data visualization company called EveryScape. Moju’s underlying technology stems from all of Oh’s schooling and experience.

Looking at Moju’s interface, it may seem too simplistic of an app when you consider Mok’s extensive background in computer visuals, as well as that of his cofounder Justin Legakis, who worked with backend data at Google and Nvidia (Moju’s team consists of only three, albeit experienced, engineers). But the app’s ease of use and single-vision approach is intentional, as it’s really the foundation for what’s to come.

After a soft launch last year (“we had a synthesized view” of mostly friends, friends of friends, and family, Oh says), Moju recently opened the app to the public. This second phase is not only to get interest and feedback, but Moju’s big goal is to collect a lot of data (i.e., users and their photos) before it can introduce new features and services (Oh gave us a glimpse of a secret technology his team is working on, but it can only exist if there’s enough data), with limited resources and funding. As cool as services like Instagram, Flickr, and other big social networks may be, they didn’t achieve their popularity without big data; the same goes for Moju and other similar startups, and Oh says will require at least a year before things like facial recognition and automation can be introduced. Any new features in the works at Moju’s lab depends on this success.

“If you have a lot of users, it’s validation that this is a valuable product,” Oh says. “As we get bigger, we’ll look at different avenues in terms of the B2C or B2B side of things. There’s a lot of different applications for Moju, not just social networking. In e-commerce, people are interested in using Moju to show off a product better. Restaurants are asking how they can use Moju to take pictures of food that they can look at from different angles. I think there are a lot of applications where it could be more of a B2B service, where we enable technologies, brands, and businesses to integrate our stuff closely, and use it for their purposes.

“Having said that, right now, photos are very social, and this is the direction where we are focused on,” Oh adds, saying that any future goals, including an Android version, will depend on user growth. “We think we can really explode [as a social network], and we’ve seen lots of hints about that.”

And while Moju’s HTML 5-based technology isn’t proprietary, it does have a patent on it. But Moju isn’t opposed to licensing Moju’s joo joo, or even if another service copies it.

“If Instagram decides to use this, we’d love that,” Oh says. “It’s validation this is important and useful.” But the burden is on Moju to make sure users are aware that the idea came from Moju first.

“We get love letters from users every day: ‘This is the next Instagram.'”

Whatever Moju evolves into, its focus right now remains on growing its user base, and according to Oh, the company is seeing traction.

“It’s nowhere near Instagram big, but there’s enough validation that people love our product and they continue to use it,” Oh says, who doesn’t hide his desire for Moju to become the next big thing in photo sharing. “We get love letters from users every day. This is anecdotal, but a lot of people say, ‘This is the next Instagram.’ We need a different way to consume things, and that’s what we are.

“Part of being an entrepreneur is that you have to be self delusional. [Saying that we want to be the next Instagram] is staying relevant to our users,” Oh adds.

Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Photography

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.
Emerging Tech

A.I. can generate pictures of a finished meal based on just a written recipe

Feeling hungry? Researchers from Tel-Aviv University in Israel have created an A.I. that's able to generate complete photos of meals, based only on reading the written recipes. Here's how.
Photography

Going somewhere? Capture more than your phone can with the best travel cams

Hitting the road or doing some globetrotting this year? Bring along the right camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories. Here's a list of some of our current favorites.
Photography

From 4K powerhouses to tiny action cams, here are the best video cameras

Although not as popular as they once were, dedicated video cameras still have their benefits. From travel vlogging to home movies to recording your kid's little league game, here are the best video cameras you can buy right now.
Photography

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.
Photography

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.
Photography

Sony crams its best camera tech into the new $900 A6400

Love Sony's autofocus, but can't stomach the full-frame price? The Sony A6400 mirrorless camera uses some of the same autofocus technology and the processor of the A9 in a compact, more affordable crop-sensor camera.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…
Photography

GoPro bumps resolution on Fusion 360 cam to 5.6K with new firmware

Currently available in public beta, Fusion firmware version 2.0 offers a new 5.8K mode that results in 5.6K output when the 360 camera's two hemispheres are stitched together. It also adds support for 24 fps video and RAW time-lapse…
Photography

With 5-stop optical stabilization, Fujifilm GF 100-200mm is ready for adventure

Fujifilm revealed a new lens designed to deliver on the GFX system's promise of adventure-ready medium-format photography. The GF 100-200mm F5.6 R is a weather resistant, relatively lightweight, 2x telephoto with impressive stabilization.