Google's Magic Eraser Saves Us From Photobombs
Written by David Conrad   
Sunday, 24 October 2021

Computational photography is amazing, but delivering it in a form that is usable is still difficult. Google now offers MagicEraser as part of its new Pixel 6 phone and it looks as if it makes a monkey out of anyone who wants to claim that photos never lie.

 Google has been working on AI approaches to photography for a long time, but at last we have an app that does something amazing. Magic Eraser can remove objects from photos. You don't need the usual complex editing tools that can do the job back at the digital darkroom. This app runs on the phone and it doesn't seem to need much in the way of skill. All you have to is apply it to a photo and see what it identifies as objects that would be better removed. You can accept its suggestions or you can tap them one at a time and watch them vanish.

Details on how it works or what its capabilities are haven't been made clear, but we have the following comment:

Magic Eraser can detect distractions in your photos, like people in the background, power lines and power poles, and suggest what you might want to remove.

If the auto detect doesn't work well enough, then you can brush over the object or circle it and the app will work out where the boundaries of the object are.


Notice that there are two things going on - object detection and in-painting. An object's boundary is detected in real-time and the app works out how to use the information in the rest of the picture to in-paint once the object has been removed. Obviously this is the sort of thing that neural networks are good at, but there is no hint as to what technique is being used.

This puts another nail in the coffin of the idea that a photo is proof positive that something happened in a particular way. Google say that it only works well on background objects - probably because the in-painting relies on the statistics of the background and in-painting a foreground is more difficult. This means that you are probably going to need the help of an expert if you are trying to remove an erstwhile political ally who now out of favor.

It does mean that you can now not worry so much when snapping a photo - you can remove the annoying bits later. It also means that Android photography has the edge over iPhone photography - for now. It is also not clear if this is going to be made available to a wider Android user base and not just Pixel 6 owners.


More Information

Photobombs begone with Magic Eraser in Google Photos

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 24 October 2021 )