We are probably all familiar with Gartner’s Hype Cycle, which describes the typical adoption path of new technologies:

Gartner Hype Cycle. Image: Jeremykemp at English Wikipedia


Like any abstract representation of a complex reality, things are a bit messier in real life – take the adoption of AI technologies in our photo & video ecosystem.

Yes, we’ve seen inflated expectations, sometimes spurring developers to base their solutions on AI where good-old rules-based programming would have been more effective and efficient. And we’re still over ears in the phase of disillusionment toward AI-based imaging solutions that can cause harm by tricking and misinforming people (deepfakes) or by featuring racial or gender biases.

But, unlike the Hype Cycle, the areas of disillusionment haven’t stopped developers from making tremendous progress creating and implementing real-life AI-based imaging solutions that enable users to more easily and more creatively capture, enhance, manage, share or print their visual content.

In other words, we currently witness widely felt concerns about the negative sides of AI at the same time as we’re seeing tremendous progress being made in implementing real-world AI-imaging solutions (including some that tackle deepfakes and biases) – disillusionment and productivity are occurring in parallel rather than sequentially.

I’ve come to this conclusion by analyzing the offerings of our Visual 1st presenters in the last 2 years and identifying those who offer products or services that have incorporated AI-based features. For some of these features, AI is the core (for instance, AI-based auto-curation of images); for others, it is more tangential (such as for AI-based AR effects among many other of an app’s editing features).

I’ve classified the AI-featuring solutions along the lines of the traditional imaging workflow:

Capture: Hardware
Including standalone cameras, smartphones, depth measurement sensors, flashes, drones, action cams, 360 cameras

Capture: Software, service
Including camera apps, scanning apps, volume photoshoot services, gig photography services, scanning/digitizing services

Enhance: Alter, Edit, Compress
Including photo editing apps, collage or montage apps, mashup apps, music video apps, photo/video compression software

Manage: Store, Analyze, Curate
Including device or cloud storage solutions, image recognition apps, image rights management solutions, asset management, and workflow solutions

Share: View, Send, Sell
Including digital frames, portfolio services, photo-based marketplaces, stock photo services, sharing, AR apps

Print: B2C
Including photo print product apps or web services, kiosks, consumer photo printers

Print: B2B, B2B2C
Including photo print service providers, photo print middleware technology, B2B kiosk providers, photo printer companies

AI-using Visual 1st Presenters in the last 2 years:

And a few more things…

Let’s start with news of 3 developers who are also featured above among the recent AI-using Visual 1st presenters:

Photo Lab ToonMe. Going viral. Turning selfies into realistic cartoons is one thing; making them look like characters from different Disney movies is quite another. Photo Lab’s AI-powered ToonMe app has nailed it down and become quite a viral hit lately on the Apple App store, having conquered the #1 spot in many countries. The app’s latest inroad: currently #1 among all apps in China both in the Apple App Store and Google Play, generating 800K downloads per day on iOS alone this week while having spent $0 on marketing!

Hive. Hello Unicorn. 2019 Visual 1st presenter Hive, a provider of deep learning models that are built with training data sourced and annotated by a distributed workforce of more than 2 million registered contributors, raises $85M in 2 rounds, bringing its valuation up to $2 billion.

Synthesia. Raising $. Last year’s Visual 1st presenter Synthesia (which enables users to create synthetic videos, such as different versions of the video with the same realistic characters speaking different user-submitted text), raises $12.5M in a Series A.

Twitter. Supporting higher res photos. Twitter is rolling out the ability to share “4K” photos (up to 3840 on the long end), a feature that can be activated through the “Data usage” section of the settings menu.

Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook. Big 4: hundreds of acquisitions. Great reading: Washington Post’s in-depth analysis of the Big 4’s history of solidifying – and often monopolizing – their hold on their current markets, as well as expanding their footprint outside of it. And yes, their acquisitions include plenty of photos, video, and AI players.


Main Photo by sergey mikheev on Unsplash

Author: Hans Hartman

Hans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics, the leading research and analysis firm for the mobile photography market and organizer of Mobile Visual 1st, a yearly industry conference about mobile photography.

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