Google Photos uses AI to add motion to your memories

At Google I/O, the online giant offers new reasons to use its service -- and to justify its cost.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

Google Photos uses AI to generate "cinematic moments" that create a moving image from two related shots.


Google Photos has new AI-powered techniques to make your photos come alive, tapping into your nostalgia and making shots more shareable in an effort to make its photography services more appealing. The company introduced the features at its Google I/O developer conference Tuesday.

One option, called cinematic moments, uses artificial intelligence algorithms to combine two photos of the same scene into a motion-infused shot. It's an upgrade to the cinematic photos Google added in 2020. It's a new illustration of Google's computational photography abilities, software processing that takes a shot far beyond the original pixels captured by a digital camera.

Read more: Google Photos is ending unlimited free storage. Here's what to do about it

The cinematic moments feature uses AI neural network technology to synthesize movement between two images. "The end result is a vivid moving picture," said Shimrit Ben-Yair, the vice president who leads Google Photos, during the Google I/O keynote.

Another Google Photos option coming this summer will spot recurring patterns across your photo library and generate a collection of shots it thinks are related. Alphabet-owned  Google gave the example of an orange backpack, packaging a variety of photos showing it into one collection. A third option arriving later this year will show you photos related to holiday events.

Such features can be important. For you, it can mean those thousands of photos you've taken become an active part of your life instead of a forgotten archive. For Google, it provides an incentive for users to sign up for Google Photos instead of using a rival service or none at all.

Google Photos' cinematic moments feature turns two photos into a short, dynamic video.


More Google Photos means money for the search giant, too, as it rolls back previously free services.

Google Photos arrived at I/O 2015 with unlimited storage of compressed but still high-quality versions of your photos. Starting in June, though, Google Photos' free storage is limited to 15 gigabytes. While you might not like paying $3 per month for 200 gigabytes of Google storage, paid services can respect your privacy better than free but ad-supported alternatives.

Nostalgic photos can be nice. But Google also wants to let people avoid memories they don't want to revisit. "We specifically heard from the transgender community that resurfacing certain photos is painful, so we've been working with our partners at GLAAD and listening to feedback to make reminiscing more inclusive," Google said in a blog post. Google Photos already has some controls to let you hide photos of particular people or time periods. It will add new controls and make them easier to find this summer.

Google also will add abilities to manage photo collections of specific events. A feature called Locked Folder arriving later this year will offer a passcode-protected photo storage space that's partitioned so photos will be hidden from your photo timeline and from other photo apps.