Skype launches Photo Effects – sticker suggestions powered by machine learning

Skype launches Photo Effects – sticker suggestions powered by machine learning


Not content with merely launching its own take on Instagram and Snapchat’s Stories, Skype today is adding another copycat-like feature to its app: photo stickers. The company says it’s introducing new “Photo Effects” (as it’s calling these stickers), which include things like face masks, decorative borders, witty captions, and more. However, unlike the photo stickers you’ll find in other social apps today, Skype will actually suggest the stickers to use based on the photo’s content, day of the week, and other options.

The new feature is based on technology Microsoft introduced earlier this year in a silly camera app called Sprinkles.

The Sprinkles app leverages Microsoft’s machine learning and A.I. capabilities to do things like detect faces in photos, determine the subject’s age and emotion, figure out your celebrity look-a-like, and suggest captions. It then lets you swipe through its suggestions – for example, various props to add to your photo, funny captions, and stickers displaying its guess about your age, among other things.

Similarly, Skype will suggest its photo effects automatically with a press of a button.

To use the feature, you’ll first snap a photo then tap the magic wand icon at the top of the screen to access the photo effects.

As you swipe right through the suggestions, you’ll be prompted to add things to your photo like a smart face sticker, the weather, your location, a caption that references the day (e.g. “turn that frown upside down, it’s taco Tuesday!”), face masks, a celebrity look-a-like, or even a mystery face swap.

Microsoft says these photo effects will change often – like on different days of the week or holidays, for instance.

The resulting image can be shared with Skype friends in a conversation or posted to Skype’s new Highlights feature, which is the Instagram/Snapchat Stories clone introduced earlier this year.

Like Stories on other platforms, Highlights are somewhat ephemeral. But instead of lasting a day, they’re available for a week. They’re also not shared with your entire Skype network – only those who have opted to follow your Highlights directly.

Highlights remains a mobile-only feature for now. When Skype’s revamped interface launched to desktop users in October, Microsoft told us Highlights was not a priority for desktop integration at this time, based on user feedback. However, the company insisted it still aims to bring Highlights to the desktop in a later release.

The addition of Photo Effects is arriving on Skype for mobile users in the latest update. Skype’s release notes list Photo Effects as “upcoming” in Android version 8.10.0.4 and iOS 8.10.0.5. This version began rolling out on Monday, but will gradually release to the install base over the next week.

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