Of all the features Apple announced at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) last week, a new addition to Apple’s Visual Lookup system – a feature where you can “pick up” an object from a photo or video with just the touch of a finger – the funniest.
While Apple introduced a number of interesting new features to its software during the event, they did not really deliver the surprise and joy that comes from using the deceptively simple new photo cut-out feature – an improvement on Apple’s existing Visual Lookup system. Launched last year with iOS 15, Visual Lookup today recognizes pets, plants, landmarks and other objects in your photos. But now, when you press and hold the subject in the image, you can actually lift it off the background for use in other apps.
The function separates the background of the image from the subject and then turns the subject into a separate image. This image can then be saved or dragged and released to a messaging app like iMessage or WhatsApp.
During the keynote, Apple described the extension as the product of an advanced machine learning model, which is accelerated by CoreML and the neural engine to perform 40 billion operations in milliseconds.
In our early tests on iOS 16 developer work, the feature works surprisingly well with animals, humans, and objects. We’ll probably see this feature used to create memes and countless animal stickers when it goes live.
Object separation has been a long sought after feature in all photo editing apps. Previously, you had to use apps like Photoshop or Pixelmator to accurately draw a border to select an object and port it to another image. Tools like remove.bg and Canvas background remover has made the process easier, but it’s great to have this feature built into iPhone’s operating system. Apple said the feature “feels like magic”, and in this case the exaggeration is not entirely out of the question. This feature is surprising.
Nor is it limited to photos, as it turns out. Apple took advantage of the new feature to enhance other apps as well. For example, if you long-press an image in Safari, you’ll see an option called “Copy Subject,” which does the same thing as Visual Lookup: removes the background.
A post on Reddit also suggested that this feature be available in the Files app as well. When selecting an image, then go to the options where you will find it available as “Delete Background”.
And on the lock screen, Apple’s ability to understand which part of the photo is the object of creating a layered look where part of the photo can be placed on top of different lock screen elements, such as date and time.
Of course, this feature is not intended to replace more advanced image editing tools. Although you can use it to create many collages, memes and posters without having to put in too much effort, you still need image editing software like Pixelmator or Photoshop on your desktop or something like Snapseed to transfer the separated objects to another image, for example.
Apple is not the only company to show its AI chops related to object separation. Last year, Google introduced the Magic Eraser feature with Pixel 6, which lets you remove unwanted objects from a photo while keeping other parts of the image intact.
Both of these features have their own benefits, and both are extremely useful in daily photo editing. It would be good if Google and Apple decide to copy each other to include both of these features in their respective mobile operating systems.
The new Visual Lookup feature is just one of many features that Apple introduced in the updated iOS 16 Photos app. As TechCrunch noted last weekNew add-ons like password protection for hidden photos and the ability to copy and paste styles are likely to entice people to use iPhone’s built-in editing tools more.
The new feature was among several other notable improvements announced during WWDC. One of the most debated is Stage manager, a new add-on focused on improved multitasking for iPadOS and macOS, which represents a significant change to the user interface. Meanwhile, the Live Activities feature can give you real-time updates from apps – like a sports match you’re interested in or the location of an Uber trip or pizza delivery. But this is more of a practical update, not necessarily a “fun” one.
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