A new tool could dramatically change selfie editing

new automatic portrait clipping could change selfies auto mask
University of Hong Kong
Tech developers are teaching cameras how to record games by having them watch humans — and now a team of researchers from the University of Hong Kong and Adobe are applying the same type of research to post-processing. The group took 1,800 portraits from Flickr and clipped the subject out by hand, while an artificial neural network watched and learned.

The result? A software that can automatically separate portrait subjects from their backgrounds. Once separated, the user could then easily blur out just the background, or apply filters to only the subject.

Artificial neural networks are basically computers designed to learn from a system inspired by the brain, and it’s this type of machine-learning method that’s behind the team’s new clipping software. As a human photo editor clips out images by hand, the computer picks up the different methods being used. With the the computer watching thousands of clips, the team was able to teach the computer how to accurately mask portraits, automatically.

While the tech certainly looks cool, the paper released by the group seems to suggest the software is designed more for selfie-lovers than professional portrait photographers, despite members of the Adobe research team participating in the project. That could change as the technology progresses, but finding the feature on an Adobe app before Photoshop wouldn’t be too surprising.

According to the paper, the research was inspired by the rapid increase of self-portraits. “The bulk of these portraits are captured by casual photographers who often lack the necessary skills to consistently take great portraits, or to successfully post-process them,” the team wrote. “Even with the plethora of easy-to-use automatic image filters that are amenable to novice photographers, good portrait post-processing requires treating the subject separately from the background in order to make the subject stand out.”

The team acknowledged that many user-guided tools for creating masks for selectively treating portrait subjects exist, but stated that “these tools can still be tedious and difficult to use, and remain an obstacle for casual photographers who want their portraits to look good. ”

The research comes just a few weeks after Photoshop introduced a face-aware liquify feature, which with one selection will automatically separate out the eyes, nose, and lips for editing.


Sweet 16: Wacom’s Cintiq 16 pen display makes retouching photos a breeze

Wacom’s Cintiq pen displays are usually reserved for the pros (or wealthy enthusiasts), but the new Cintiq 16 brings screen and stylus editing to an approachable price. Does it cut too much to get there?
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Product Review

Equal parts tool and toy, the Lensbaby Edge 35 bucks photographic tradition

The Lensbaby Edge 35, part of the Composer Pro optic swap system, creates tilt-shift-like blur without the tilt-shift price. Made for photographers who want find tradition boring, it opens up new ways to work with blur.

Fujifilm X-T30 vs. Sony A6400: Midrange mirrorless cameras compared

The Fujifilm X-T30 and Sony A6400 are two of the best cameras you can buy for under $1,000, but which should you choose? Each has an edge in certain situations which makes picking a winner difficult, but here's how they compare.

Photography news: Sony brings Eye Autofocus to critters via A.I.

In this week's photography news, the Sony a7 III and a7R III have some new capabilities, thanks to updated firmware. Lexar teases a crazy fast 1,000MB/s memory card, while Vimeo launches bulk upload possibilities.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Halfbikes, VR for all your senses, and more

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's fun to gawk!

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…

Etch-A-Snap camera puts a modern spin on one of your favorite childhood toys

Can't draw on an Etch A Sketch? Snap a photo with the Etch-A-Snap and the camera will draw out the scene for you. The weirdly cool camera designed by Martin Fitzpatrick replaces the usual LCD screen with an old-school Etch A Sketch.

The Black Eye Pro Cinema Wide G4 is a knockout lens for any smartphone

Where cheaper wide-angle accessory lenses add distortion, and costlier models don't always justify their higher prices, the Black Eye Pro Cinema Wide G4 offers a valuable balance of modest price and high quality optics.

Family feud: Huawei P30 Pro vs. P20 Pro vs. Mate 20 Pro camera shootout

The Huawei P30 Pro's camera has an amazing zoom mode and low light capabilities. But take these away, and how does it compare when facing its sibling phones, the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro, taking regular photos?

Nikon Z 7 vs. Sony A7R III: High-res mirrorless cameras compared

The Nikon Z 7 and Sony A7R III both have over 40 megapixels, but which one comes out on top? With similar image quality, the answer comes down to speed, autofocus, battery life, and design.

The Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR camera gets a steep price cut at Walmart

Modern smartphones can snap pretty impressive pics, but if you want pro-quality photos, you need a dedicated digital camera. The Canon EOS Rebel T6 is one of the best entry-level DSLR cameras on the market, and it’s on sale right now for…

Panasonic Lumix S1R vs. Nikon Z 7: When megapixels matter, which do you choose?

The 47-megapixels Lumix S1R and 46-megapixel Nikon Z 7 are the two highest-resolution, full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market. The S1R features a high-resolution mode that can take 187MP images, but the Nikon is lighter and cheaper.