Google+ #AutoAwesome

When Google+ #AutoAwesome Is Not That Awesome

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

In the fall of 2013, Google released a new set of features on Google+ called AutoAwesome.  If you want to use AutoAwesome, you need to have uploaded or synchronized digital photos from your phone to your Google Drive. Once you enable AutoAwesome in your profile settings, and your photos meet a certain criteria, Google will essentially create new images by adding special effects to your photos, or will sometimes combine a series of phones into a composite image or an animated gif. But sometimes those AutoAwesome results are not that awesome. Let me show you some examples, starting with a “successful” AutoAwesome image:

Google created this composite photo from three other photos.  In reality, there was only one dog
Google created this composite from 3 separate photos. In reality, there was only 1 dog

The image above was created by Google AutoAwesome after uploading 3 different photos of my white German Shepard, Jack. Notice that Jack’s leash has also been deleted on 2 of the 3 dogs.  Google also created a new “ERASER” image that deleted Jack altogether, except for the leash:

Notice how Google + erased Jack and his shadow but not his leash and its shadow
Notice Google + erased Jack and his shadow, but not his leash, and its shadow

I think its pretty neat that Google can do this to uploaded photos, but many times the autoawesome image is not that awesome. In fact, sometimes the resulting image or gif is downright scary:

Google AutoAwesome turned my dog Jack into Kerberos
AutoAwesome turned my dog Jack into the mythical creature, Kerberos

Take a look at what AutoAwesome did to the Golden Gate Bridge in this image below:

Autoawesome must have detected and deleted straight black lines in this image
Autoawesome detected and deleted straight black lines in the original image

I have seen other images where faces have been accidentally replaced with someone else’s face, or a person’s head was completely deleted! Luckily, the AutoAwesome animated gifs usually turn out better than the Eraser photos:

Google AutoAwesome created this animated gif image from a series of uploaded photos
AutoAwesome created this animated gif image from a series of photos
Google AutoAwesome created this animated gif image from a series of uploaded photos
We were trying to win a gift certificate from Love’s Convenience Stores

In addition to the “Eraser” and “Motion” features, AutoAwesome will also sometimes photobomb your photos, or add special effects like falling snow or floating hearts to photos of romantic couples. Personally, I have very mixed feelings about Google AutoAwesome: part of me thinks Google has pioneered a whole new angle of digital photography, while creating a new tool for social media marketing; and that part of me really does find these new images to be truly awesome.  But a bigger part of me says, Wait a second, how exactly do ‘they’ decide what photos to autoawesome? For instance, how on earth does Google know to add animated hearts to two people kissing?  Seriously, how does Google know that two people are kissing, and not Siamese twins? If it’s just an automated robot (computer program), that would be impressive, but a bit scary. If there is a human deciding which photos to use, then we should be worried about privacy issues; even more scary.  I guess if a person is willing to create a Google+ account, and upload photos, they are giving up their rights to those photos.  As the old saying goes, you can’t swim, without getting wet.

Feel free to share your links to your own Google+ Autoawesome photos in the comments below.