Google’s new Magic Editor nudges us towards masterful AI fakery

One of the more impressive Google I/O demos started with a photo of a woman in front of a waterfall. A presenter on stage tapped the woman, picked her up, and moved her to the other side of the photo, with the app automatically filling in the space where she was once standing. Then they flicked at the cloudy sky, and it instantly blossomed into an even brighter clear blue. Within seconds, the image was changed.

Dubbed the Magic Editor, the AI-powered tool definitely lived up to its name during the demo. It’s the kind of tool Google has been building for years. It already has a couple of AI-powered photo editing features in its arsenal, including the Magic Eraser, which lets you quickly remove people or objects from the background of a photo. But this type of tool takes things to a higher level by letting you change the contents—and perhaps the meaning—of an image in more significant ways.

Magic Editor transforms the image in seconds.
GIF: Google

While this tool obviously isn’t flawless—and there’s no set date for its release—Google’s ultimate goal is clear: to make perfecting images as easy as clicking or dragging something on your screen. The company markets the tool as a way to “make complex edits without professional-level editing tools,” allowing you to harness the power of artificial intelligence to customize and transform a portion of your image. This includes the ability to enhance the sky, moving and measuring targets, as well as remove parts of an image with just a few clicks.

Google’s Magic Editor attempts to bundle all the steps it would take to make similar adjustments in a program like Photoshop in one click – or at least that’s what it looks like from the demo. In Photoshop, for example, you’re stuck using the Content-Aware Move tool (or any of the other methods of your choice) to capture and move a subject within an image. Even then, the image might not look quite right, which means you’ll have to pick up other tools, like the Clone Stamp tool or maybe even the Spot Healing Brush, to fix any leftover traces or a mismatched background. It’s by no means the most complicated process, but as with most professional creative tools, there is a definite learning curve for people new to the software.

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I’m all for Google to make photo editing tools free and more accessible, given that Photoshop and some other photo editing apps are pretty expensive and pretty unintuitive. But putting incredibly easy-to-use, powerful photo editing tools in the hands of everyone who downloads Google Photos could change the way we edit and look at photos. There have long been discussions about the extent to which a photo can be edited before it becomes an image, and Google’s tools push us into a realm closer as we click on each photo to perfect it, whether it’s real or not.

Samsung recently drew attention to the power of AI-“enhanced” photos with “Space Zoom,” a feature that’s supposed to let you take amazing photos of the moon on newer Galaxy devices. In March, a Reddit user tried Space Zoom on an almost irreparable photo of the Moon and found that Samsung seemed to be adding craters and other patches that weren’t already there. Not only does this run the risk of creating a “fake” image of the moon, but it also leaves actual space photographers in a strange place, as they spend years perfecting the art of capturing the night sky, often only for the public. Provided with fake products.

A series of edits using the Google Magic Editor.
Image: Google

To be fair, there are a lot of photography-enhancing features built into smartphone cameras. As my colleague Alison Johnson points out, mobile photography actually fakes a lot of things, whether it’s by applying filters or de-blurring a photo, and fake photos are nothing new. But the Google Magic Editor might make a more fundamental form of fakery easier and more attractive. in His blog post explains the toolGoogle makes it sound like we’re all in search of perfection, noting that Magic Editor will provide “more control over the final look and feel of your photo” while also getting the chance to fix a missed opportunity that will make the photo look its best.

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Call me a bit of a freak photo fan, but I’m not a fan of editing a photo in a way that would alter my memory of an event. If I were taking a wedding photo and the sky was cloudy, I wouldn’t think of replacing it with something better. Just maybe maybe – I might think of moving things around or raising the sky on a photo I post on social media, but even that seems a bit disingenuous. But, again, that’s just me. I can still see a lot of people using the Magic Editor to perfect their photos for social media, which adds to the larger conversation about what exactly we should consider an image and whether or not that’s something people should disclose.

Google calls the Magic Editor an “experimental technology” that will become available to “select” Pixel phones later this year before it’s released to anyone else. If Google is indeed adding AI-powered photo editing tools to Photos, it seems only a matter of time before smartphone makers incorporate such one-click tools, like replacing the sky or the ability to move a subject directly into a phone’s camera software. . Sometimes, the beauty of the picture He is deficiency in it. Smartphone makers seem to be trying to push us farther and farther away from this idea.

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