Two weeks ago, Lucca turned two, and that’s when my sister shared the album with her grandparents who live in another state and are missing their grandson because of the quarantine consequence of the new coronavirus. After that, my sister then told me how her grandparents reacted when they saw the pictures gathered in chronological order: “we were very moved”. So, I realized that that day my decision to follow the AI suggestion of Google Photos and create the album was not just for reason.
This week, Google Photos received a redesign of its design to offer people the chance to relive unique moments, from the ordinary dog walk in the neighborhood park, to trips with friends and family around the world. At least that’s what it says David Lieb, the Google Photos Product Director, in an exclusive interview with Canaltech.
We’ve noticed that over the years, the things people really love about Google Photos are actually the parts of the product that have the most to do with memories. […] So we decided to redesign Google Photos and make it an even better tool to remember the memories of your life. That’s what the update is about.
Last year, Fotos joined the select list of applications to reach 1 billion users. And Brazil, according to Lieb, is one of the countries in which the service is quite popular. Very friendly, right at the beginning of our conversation, the executive made a point of stressing this:
There are tens of millions of people using Google Photos in Brazil every day, which makes the country one of the most engaged in using Google Photos.
On Thursday (26), announce the news coming to the new version of Google Photoshowever, what really changes is the navigation in the application, which has been simplified. During the demonstration * of the new Photos layout, I immediately remembered the look of the Instagram, with Stories at the top and the image grid below. That’s because now, the AI of the system analyzes the photos and shows only what really matters to people, such as family moments, travel memories, walks in the park and so on. So, say goodbye to the billet images and screenshots on the first page of the app.
In addition, the thumbnails of the images are larger and the videos are played automatically, offering a preview, further accentuating this private Instagram character. If you use the Photos app, Apple, you will quickly notice the similarity.
Many of the things that each of these applications [Instagram e Fotos] is trying to do is similar. But Google Photos is a private space that includes all of your life memories, while Instagram reflects only what you’ve chosen to share. Therefore, they are two different views of your life.
The “Souvenirs”, at the top, gained more highlights and contexts, and are very similar to what we have in the Stories of YouTube. It is worth remembering that the section “Souvenirs” is all suggested by artificial intelligence.
Unlike any other application in the Google, like Gmail, Maps or Keep, Photos no longer has the search field at the top of the screen, but on the central tab. At first, this caused me to be surprised, as it would add a new click on the search action, which would put the simplification of the service in check. However, this does not happen, since by long pressing the search icon (magnifying glass), we go straight to the search within the app. So why make this change?
By making search a secondary screen, Lieb and his team start offering people even more possibilities when it comes to in-app search. Did you know that when typing in the search for “birthday” or “São Paulo”, for context, only the images captured at birthday parties or in the city of São Paulo will appear to you? Many people do not know this and that is why research has now gained more importance in Fotos.
The reason why we made this new design is linked to the fact that Google Photos automatically categorizes all images, but many people don’t realize it, so relying too much on a search box is a problem, as people don’t know everything that can do. […] The idea is to have a more visual research guide.
In other words, Photos’ AI work will be more visible to you, showing shortcuts to categories you might not even have thought you could use.
In addition, we have the new interactive map of photos and videos to assist in the search for images. Using the geolocation tag of the photos, which must be activated by users, you can travel the globe and revisit the places you’ve been in through images and videos. The experience is really cool, because as we browse the map, at the bottom, we see the images moving as the region on the screen changes.
This service is not exclusive to Google Photos, as Apple offers the same feature. However, it must be said that Lieb’s team has managed to offer a more lively experience. I suggest that you test this feature after updating the app on the Play Store.
Five years ago, Google Photos emerged as a photo management tool, had integration with Google Drive and other features that identify this type of service, but over time, it has evolved into something more consistent with an experience. Many people still miss this management tool, however, the concept of Fotos changed some time ago and, after what we saw in this last update, users’ experience with memories is what guides the Lieb team.
When we talked internally about redesigning the app, we had two goals: one of them was to make the user experience simpler instead of launching a series of new features, we rethought how the existing ones could work together. And the other objective was what you said, we want to present these memories that are enabled by AI. Not that people can’t necessarily find them, but we want to put them in the foreground, because it [IA] understands well what people who open the app like to do.
In summary, everything we had before in Google Photos, is still there, but the changes made to the application will gradually impact the way we consume our own memories. What in times of social isolation ends up functioning as an escape valve.
But remember, despite having all these facilities, you are in control of what you want to allow Google’s smart assistant to do. The permissions of Photos are increasingly granular, accessible from the security settings of the phone and the application itself, both for Android and iOS.
The essence of Google Photos is to have a safe and private place for your photos and memories. So our number one rule is to keep these photos private.
Now, even, “Memories” can be limited to the people and moments you want to see. Just access the application’s settings and hide the content of the images you don’t want to be seen in the memories.
In addition, if you don’t want to share location data in photos, restrict geolocation access to the service. The same works for searches on people in your Google Photos, because you can always remove such markings. This, however, would limit the use of the service.
No human being can see your photos. We always try to improve the user experience, receiving feedback. For example, if you search for someone’s face on Google Photos, click on your brother’s face and a picture of your cousin appears, then with your feedback you improve the algorithms, but it doesn’t require any personal information, we take it a lot seriously.
Finally, claiming that Google Photos is betting on Artificial Intelligence to put people in the foreground may seem contradictory. However, that is why we created computers and other technologies, so that we could spend more time doing what we love to do: creating memories.
* Until the publication of this article, the update of Google Photos via Play Store or App Store had not yet been made available. The article was built based on the demonstration of the new Google Photos carried out by the service’s product director exclusively to Canaltech.