At today’s Google I/O developer event, a series of upgrades were announced to the Google Photos service used by more than a billion users, Google which was virtually streamed this year due to COVID. The company is rolling out a new feature called “Cinematic moments” that will animate a series of static photos as well as locked Folders, new types of photo “Memories” for reminiscing over past events, among other updates.

Today, Google Photos stores over 4 trillion photos and videos. But the truth is that the majority of those are never viewed. Google has been developing AI-powered features to help its users reflect on meaningful moments from their lives, to change the same. Google Photos can resurface photos and videos focused on people, activities and hobbies as well as recent highlights from the week prior, with the help of Memories, launched in 2019.

The company announced it’s adding a new type of Memory, at Google I/O, which it’s calling “little patterns.” Little patterns look for a set of three or more photos with similarities, using machine learning, like shape or colour, which it then highlights as a pattern for you.

For example, GoogleM Photos was able to identify a pattern where that backpack was featured in photos from around the globe when one of Google’s engineers travelled the world with their favourite orange backpack. But patterns can also be family photos that are frequently snapped in the same room with a piece of identifiable furniture, like the living room couch. When they’re combined over time, they can produce some interesting compilations, even if these photos may not seem like much on their own.

Google Photos update

To your photo grid, Google will also be adding Best of Month Memories and Trip highlights which you’ll now be able to rename or remove, as well as Memories featuring events you celebrate, like holidays or birthdays. Google says that based on a combination of factors, these events will be identified. This includes identifying objects in the photos —for example, a Hanukkah menorah or birthday cake— as well as by matching up the date of known holidays with the photo.

Trip highlight Memories and Best of Month and will begin to roll out today and will be found in the photo grid itself. You’ll begin to see Memories related to the events and moments you celebrate, later this year.

Cinematic Moments is another forthcoming addition. It is somewhat reminiscent of the “deep nostalgia” technology from MyHeritage that went viral earlier this year, as users animated the photos of long-past loved ones. Except in Google’s case, it’s stitching together a series of photos to create a sense of action and movement, it’s not taking an old photo and bringing it to life.

Google explains that to get one “good” image they can share, often, people will take multiple photos of the same moment. When trying to capture something in motion, this is especially true — like a small child or a pet who can’t sit still.

Machine learning is used by these new Cinematic moments built on the Cinematic photos feature Google launched in December 2020 to create vivid, 3D versions of your photos. Google Photos will be able to create vivid, moving images by filling in the gaps between your photos to create new frames, using computational photography and neural networks to stitch together a series of near-identical photos. At this time, this feature doesn’t have a launch date.

Of course, for a variety of reasons, not all past moments are worthy of revisiting. It’s continuing to add new controls and, later this summer will make it easier to access its existing toolset, while Google already offered tools to hide certain photos and time periods from your Memories. Working with the transgender community, who have said that revisiting their old photos can be painful, had been one key area of focus.

Soon, based on the events they celebrate, users will also be able to remove their Best of Month Memories, remove a single photo from a Memory, and rename and remove Memories too.

Locked Folder is another useful addition to Google Photos. It is simply a passcode-protected space for private photos. Many users want to pull up photos to show to others through the app on their phone or even their connected TV if they automatically sync their phone’s photos to Google’s cloud. If their galleries are filled with private photos, that can be difficult, of course.

On Pixel devices, this particular feature will be launched first. From their camera to the Locked folder, where users will have the option to save photos and videos directly. Later in the year, other Android devices will get the update.