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App Review - Microsoft Selfie

The Verge
It's hard to say which part of this is more unusual, the fact the Microsoft even went to the effort of making yet another selfie app, or that they've released it on iOS. You don't have to be a Silicon Valley mover and shaker to know that Microsoft and Apple do not like each other. They both have separate, dedicated demographics now, but they are most certainly still direct competitors, and constantly battle for market supremacy.

In this case, the motivation is probably to make sure that the app reaches as many people as possible, as iPhones remain the most popular smartphone out there, a fact which is unlikely to change any time soon. Why is this app so important? Well, according to Microsoft, rather than just allowing you to take and edit shots of your own mug, this app 'takes age, gender, skin tone, lighting, and many other variables into account, applies different models automatically and finishes enhancement with just a single click.'

To my mind, what Microsoft are saying there is that they've mapped their machine learning technology into a kind of circumstantially aware airbrush tool. It's a trend they've been following rather diligently of late, as with their weird 'Project Oxford' tool, which can supposedly scan the emotions in photographed faces (sometimes). In this case, the app figures out roughly how old you are, what's going on between your legs, what time of day it is and so forth in order to have the best chance of making you better looking than you actually are. Well, in theory.

AM I BEAUTIFUL NOW MICROSOFT!?
I gave it a try, and on first glance it didn't seem like it was really doing much, once the image is taken you're given a series of preset filters and a slider with a happy face on the far left and a slightly shinier happy face on the far right. Presumably having a sad face on the left would have been offensive. Moving it around seems to be tantamount to rubbing increasingly larger quantities of Vaseline on the lens, as the focus gets softer and softer.

It's hard to tell, without the benefit of seeing how it works with other people in different lighting at different times, just how diverse/intelligent this system is. For my part, it just seemed to make me look like I was made of plastic, since all the darker shading around my forehead and cheekbones had been taken away. It probably didn't help that I was pulling a stupid face, but the notion of taking selfies seriously is one that still confuses and terrifies me. Evidently, in Microsoft's view, the more like an amorphous blob of beige yogurt you look, the more attractive you are. For the sake of argument I also tried it out on an old photo of me and two of my friends. Since that image was taken on a non-iPhone camera, I didn't expect it to be as good, but weirdly it seemed to focus almost entirely on the face in the middle, with the other two only being mildly altered.

Extra points for the half-hearted attempt to fix the guy in the background's face as well
Is the app worth picking up? Well, it's free, but it takes up a surprising and somewhat unsettling amount of storage space (more than 3 times as much as Instagram). Presumably all that memory is being lent to all these hyper advanced facial editing parameters, but once again it's hard to actually see how well they're working in practice. If you're really into selfies, but really bad at photo editing, or if you can understand the technology enough to want to see it in action, this may appeal to you, otherwise you're probably not missing much.


Overall, we give Microsoft Selfie a Songbird Rating of 3 out of 5 stars!





Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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App Review - Microsoft Selfie Reviewed by Callum Davies on Wednesday, January 06, 2016 Rating: 5

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