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Neural net photography tweaks go mobile with Prisma on iOS

Engadget Engadget 25/06/2016 Timothy J. Seppala
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We've seen DeepMind's acid trip photo creations and what it looks like when algorithms colorize black and white photos. But you need to be near a computer for the former, and do some pretty heavy lifting, scientifically speaking, to set up the latter. But an iOS app is putting algorithm-based photo tweaks in your pocket. Dubbed Prisma, it takes a different approach than, say, Instagram. The app's filters are artistic, in the painterly definition of the word.

Either take a new photo from within the app or import a pre-existing one (don't bother with anything aside from vertical shots) and pick from one of about 20 filters, then export to your social network of choice. Fancy making a pile of coat hangers on your end table look like a pencil sketch? Have at it. Same goes for transforming into a The Scream-like brushstroke patterns. The development team tells TechCrunch that the goal is to add two or more new filters each day, and expects to have 40 within a month.

The results are pretty impressive, and unlike Paper Camera on Android, your phone isn't doing any of the heavy lifting here. The processing is done via Prisma's remote servers, and the outfit claims that no photos are stored or viewed from its side of things. On WiFi processing takes a second or two to apply the effect, but the wait is pretty low-impact and didn't stop me from experimenting with different looks. That could all change when operating on mobile data, of course. But it's still a lot faster than desktop-based alternatives.

"We're not just overlaying like an Instagram filter," Prisma co-founder Alexey Moiseenkov tells TechCrunch. "We create the photo from scratch. So there is no photo, we took your photo, then perform some operations and give a new photo to you. So deep learning is like an artist, something like that."

Okay, so Moiseenkov's pitch might need some polishing, but the app is free so you're not out anything for giving it a shot.

Prisma (iTunes)

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