Google engineers have recently been dabbling in iOS, and the result is Google Motion Stills, a new app that stabilizes successive Apple Live Photos to produce a single, calmer GIF. Apple Live allows users to take a burst of photos, resulting in a series of images that can be put together and viewed as a short video. The problem is that sometimes these clips can be extra bumpy and uncomfortable to watch, because they lack any kind of motion stabilization. Enter Google, which not only took the unorthodox approach of fixing a rival’s problem but hasn’t even announced plans to develop the app for Android.
In fairness, it seems like the Google team that developed the Motion Stills app was just seeking out a good challenge. Motion Stills required dramatically reducing the computing power required for typical video stabilization technology, as the team wanted the app to work without requiring an internet connection. In the end, they achieved a pretty remarkable success.
“We achieved a 40x speedup by using techniques such as temporal subsampling, decoupling of motion parameters, and using Google Research’s custom linear solver, GLOP. We obtain further speedup and conserve storage by computing low-resolution warp textures to perform real-time GPU rendering, just like in a videogame,” the Google Motion Stills announcement reads.
Here’s the before and after. It makes for a dramatic improvement:
Despite the overall goal to shrink the size of the program, Google did add a loop stabilization feature and impressive background-recognition capabilities. So far, the reviews from users on Instagram who have been posting their Apple Live photos stabilized through Motion Stills appear to be pretty positive.
The only potential criticism of the new software is that the rendering will sometimes distort parts of the images, though not everyone dislikes this inadvertent feature. As one user put it, “When technology finds a way to make your Live Photos look like the moving pictures in Harry Potter… #dope #motionstills.”
And, of course, there are those who were simply outraged that Google would release an app for iOS on the App Store, but not for Android and Google Play. It’s a fair point, posing the question why Google has engineers working on a free app for an operating system that is not their own. It couldn’t possibly be in their business plan to help Apple produce a better experience for its users, but then again, Google has also reached the size where normal ideas of business just do not apply.