Google Photos ups its movie and sharing game

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One of Google Photos‘ standout features has long been its ability to automatically create short movies whenever it recognizes you went on a trip. Until now, though, the system that built those movies mostly used time and location (as well as some image recognition tools) as markers for which photos to include. Starting today, Google is going beyond simply making these vacation-/trip-related movies and is launching its first theme-based movies for Google Photos, too.

The first movie the company is rolling out centers around children. This is meant “to help people who have tons of photos and videos of their child or another kid in their life and little time to organize them,” a Google spokesperson told me.

Ten years ago, the photos you took of your children probably ended up in an album (or a shoe box, depending on how organized you are). These days, parents take hundreds of pictures of their children, upload them to a service like Google Photos and then maybe share one or two more widely. With this new type of movie, Google Photos will look at the photos and videos you’ve taken of a kid — even if they are spread over multiple years — and Google’s algorithm will then pick the best ones and create a movie out of them.

“People have told us ‘it would be wonderful if Google Photos could make a movie showing my child growing up over the course of years,’” Google Photos product manager Tim Novikoff told me. “So we’re doing that, with one movie concept — users with years of photos of a child will get one of these.”

Novikoff says this is only a first attempt at bringing themed movies to Google Photos, though. “But we’re also making movies that span months and days. An example spanning months is a concept which puts together your smiles from this past summer to commemorate the good times. An example spanning a much shorter time range is a concept for formal events like weddings,” he said.

Also new in Google Photos today is an easier way of sharing photos and videos. It’s now easier to share them with other Google Photos users, for example. Google Photos already offered the concept of shared albums that multiple people could contribute to. If you simply wanted to share a photo with somebody, though, you had to email it to them or send it through some other Google or third-party app. Now, if you are sharing with another Google Photos user, the experience will be significantly smoother.

If you are sharing a photo with somebody who isn’t on Google Photos, you still use the same sharing dialog and contact picker and simply enter their email address or phone number. Google then handles the rest for you by either sending and email, text message or in-app notifications.

Also new: When somebody opens a photo you shared, you’ll now get a notification.

“This update is all about making it simpler to get photos, videos, and albums to the right people,” Kedar Kantikar, the tech lead for the Google Photos Sharing project, told me. “Sharing photos with friends and family isn’t super easy — everyone uses different apps, and it’s hard to keep track of who is using what. For example, one of my friends is a die-hard Google Photos user, another I usually contact by email, and a third has changed his email address so many times that a text message is the only way I know I’ll reach him. ”

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