If you're tired of having people get in the way of a good photo, then this new iOS app called Bye Bye Camera may be for you.
I don't spend a lot of time with iOS photo apps, but this caught my eye for creativity and the technology used.
Point the app at a scene with some people, snap the photo, and after a bit of processing the people are gone. I'm sure most of us do this with our pro and semi pro photo apps, like using content aware fill in Photoshop, but that requires identifying the people in the image, and letting the software do its work. Bye Bye Camera is quite different. You snap the photo, letting the app figure out where the people are, and using some clever algorithms you'll usually get a photo where the people are gone but the landscape or buildings remain. Kind of like the mythical neutron bomb of science fiction... buildings are left standing, but the people are gone.
The app is pretty stark and has simple instructions. When you start the app it tells you to tap the screen once to take a photo. Tap twice to switch cameras on your iPhone. There's some cryptic numbers on the lower right of the screen. I'm not sure what they mean.
Designed by avant-garde artist Damjanski and the art collective Do Something Good, Damjanski designed the app with a couple of other Russian collaborators.
“I consider Bye Bye Camera an app for the post-human era,” Damjanski told Artnome. “It’s a gentle nod to a future where complex programs replace human labor and, some would argue, the human race. It’s interesting to ask what is a human from an Ai (yes, the small ‘i’ is intended) perspective? In this case, a collection of pixels that identify a person based on previously labeled data. But who labels this data that defines a person immaterially? So many questions for such an innocent little camera app.”
Does it work? Pretty well. I took it into a department store and it pretty much removed the customers. It doesn't remove animals. Dogs seem to remain in the photos, and my parrot didn't vanish either. Here's a before photo:
After processing the two people near the center are gone, although the app did leave the woman to the right. It's not perfect, especially in the area where the people were removed, but it's not bad either.
Here's another photo with a before:
And then the post processed shot:
The software eliminated the obvious person, and did it quite cleanly, filling in what the woman was covering. In all the shots I've blurred the identifiable people, it's not a defect in the app.
Now of course you can do this in Photoshop and other apps, but you either have to indicate where the people are for Content Aware fill and it's variants, or if people are moving you can take several images and let Photoshop remove what is moving, and leave what is static. This works well for architects, and others who want to see landscapes or structures without the people. Here, Bye Bye Camera identifies people on its own, and wipes them out. It's not perfect, but it's still a significant step toward automating the process.
Bye Bye Camera is not a pro app, but for $2.99 you can get an interesting taste of the future. I'd love to see a stand alone version of this app for Macs and PCs. Obviously a Photoshop plug in would be wonderful. At this point, Bye Bye Camera is something to play with, appreciate, and I hope the authors will improve it and offer it on other platforms.
If you give it a try, please let us know what you think. I was pretty impressed.