Making pixels up

October 09, 2023

Watching Google's Pixel 8 introduction, I was fascinated about my own reaction to their new photo manipulation tools.

At the same time as I saw the fun and usefulness in them, I realized that they had passed my line about what I feel good about a camera doing while still presenting the result as a photo.

The particularly interesting case was the feature Google calls Best take, where you can mix and match heads from a series of group photos to create a result where everyone is looking good at the same time.

It was interesting because it was at once a feature I saw great use for - I think I have even wished for this feature explicitly - and one which I felt took exactly one step beyond the line of a photo.

On the other side of the line are a whole lot of cool things, and a lot of fun results, all of which are editing of actual photos, not capturing data about the real world. Changing them from what was there at the time the photo was taken.

I started to think that Google should split their functions between the camera app and a dedicated editing app. That would feel appropriate. As things stand now, I am left with a strange taste in my mouth when many of the most touted "camera" features are essentially about making things up with your actual photo as some kind of starting point.

Give it a few more years, and they can proudly announce that you do not even need to press the button - they can generate the photo for you.

Well, a better photo, really. Many things will be similar to what was actually going on. Mostly. With, you know, better-looking people. Who are happy. Look happy.

Also: no need for all that annoying camera hardware! Introducting the Pixel button! Just one button, to create good stuff. Next year, we will use AI to press the button for you.

(Then I started thinking they should put that editing app on other phones. The "Pixel editor" ("by Google") would accompany Iphone 15 in a great way. Show us all what you can do with all your AI smarts.

Remember when Google was all about indexing the world's information? What are they about now, making things up?

They also tell us we should trust Bard to pick the right hiking path for us in the moment we are standing at a fork in the road looking at the sign. Trust the model, without verifying yourself, in the wilderness. What could possibly go wrong? They will of course include tons of disclaimers somewhere, but there is no way in hell people will not be harmed in significant ways by trusting completely incorrect yet confidently delivered responses from things like Bard. Again, and again.

Making things up is, still, not actual information. But it will of course be indexed as if it was.