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See how Google Photos’ nifty new feature adds color to black-and-white images

Published Oct 7th, 2019 6:36PM EDT
Google Photos
Image: Olly Curtis/Future/Shutterstock

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Google first got us excited for the nifty new Google Photos feature called “Colorize” back in 2018, when the company teased it at I/O 2018 and showed us how it can take a black and white image you’ve captured and render it in color. That’s no mean feat, because the AI that underpins this feature goes on to imbue the image with the correct color choices in the correct way — trees, for example, show up looking natural and not shaded with, say, a purple hue.

Per a Google executive, the feature relies on TensorFlow’s machine learning capabilities to recognize the appropriate colors that need to be added to specific areas of black-and-white images. And now, thanks to an early version of the feature in action, when can get another look at how well this works.

Running a beta version of the feature, which Google promises is being launched soon, 9to5Google provided some examples of how well “Colorize” works. The sample below show an original color image, then the image runs through a black-and-white filter in order to give Colorize something to work with, and image #3 is the result:

Here’s a stellar sample:

Image source: 9to5Google

And another example:

Image source: 9to5Google

One thing to note, for those you interested in this feature, is that the colorization doesn’t happen on-device. You’ve got to actually take a photo and upload it to Google Photos before the process kicks in. And while you can see some examples above of Colorize in action, it’s intriguing to think about all the other different possibilities that exist for this feature — some even with potential emotional resonance for the user.

Think about a photo of your grandparents that’s in black-and-white, for example, which can be updated with natural-looking color, bringing to life snapshots from earlier generations of your family.

This is all part and parcel of the new functionality Google keeps adding to Photos to surprise and delight users, one of the most recent being a Stories-like element that uses bubbles at the top of the app to resurface photos you may have forgotten about (an “On this day, this happened” kind of feature). The app’s AI also regularly touches up your photos and surprises you with collages, your photos updated with filters and much more.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.