Could AI be the way to get a phone brand into more hands? Microsoft Research seems to be one of the many heavy guns that Microsoft is willing to send into battle to see Windows Phone 7 (WP7) advance into new territory.
For a long time it has been held that it is the apps that make a phone. The hardware is mostly irrelevant, as long as it doesn't get in the way too much. Who cares if the phone doesn't actually work well as a phone as long as it has Angry Birds?
The problem is how do you get apps that distinguish your phone from the rest. As soon as an app is announced it is generally available on all platforms and so there might be future killer apps but this doesn't do much to promote one phone over another.
However if you make the apps really clever it might take time at least for the others to catch up. Microsoft Research is undoubtedly clever and so who better to put WP7 ahead of the pack - well at least for a while. Currently there are eight apps available from Microsoft Research and the latest two are aimed at the mass market.
Both make use of face recognition but in different ways - one is serious and the other just fun. Face Mask will automatically place an obscuring blob or pattern. You can select which faces to recognize and which patterns to use as a mask. The application isn't all seriousness because the masks can be amusing and you can upload the results to Facebook, Twitter or Sina Weibo.
The second app really doesn't seem to have a serious use but who knows. Face Swap allows you to take a photo and swap faces on the subjects. Why would you want to do this? Well it's amusing - apparently.
You can detect multiple faces and redistribute them between the subjects randomly by simply shaking the phone. The algorithm employed isn't discussed anywhere, which is unusual for Microsoft Research, but it doesn't seem to be simple area-for-area replacement as the original hair is retained and faces seem to be elastically deformed to fit the new size.
You might like to try it out to see how you and your best friend would look if the accidents of genetics were reversed, or to see how your spouse would occupy your space in the world. You can also share your creations with the usual social apps. Whatever amusement this provides, I somehow doubt it is a killer app.
Microsoft Research WP7 apps
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