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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Finally - picture-perfect group photos

A handy new Israeli app lets you meld the best images from a variety of group shots where somebody's blinking, yawning or clowning.

Yair Bar-On, left, and Gil Megidish founded the picture-perfect iPhone app called GroupShot.
We've all been there: Members of a family manage to gather for a group photo, but it's marred by a closed eye, a hand blocking someone's face, bunny ears behind Grandma's head, a baby crying or someone jumping into the picture.

Because he'd been there too, Yair Bar-On, the CEO of the new iPhone and iPad app GroupShot, figured how to get flawless group portraits from a collection of shots. Since launching the company Macadamia Apps from Israel earlier this year, Bar-On tells ISRAEL21c, he's gotten phenomenal interest from the Japanese market for the application, now being developed for Android as well.

He and Macadamia Apps chief technology officer Gil Megidish have impressive backgrounds in high-tech. Bar-On was a consultant and Megidish developed Dumpr, a photo-sharing site with about half a million monthly unique visitors. They met many years ago when working together at the Netanya-based IT company VocalTec, the pioneer of VoIP --the technology behind Internet phone calls like Skype.

Click To View Video

GroupShot is a small program you can download to a handheld Apple device for 99 cents, plus a dose of personal passion for photography.

"I am a father myself and I take a lot of photos, many of them with my iPhone, and it's challenging with the kids, to get them all smiling at the same time, especially when they realize you might be annoyed with them after the first few pictures," says Bar-On. He determined to find a way to take the best aspects of three or four photos and amalgamate them into a really good image.

Intuitive user interface

Available in English, Japanese, Chinese, French, German and Portuguese, GroupShot was created keeping in mind the way people use the iPhone. Big fingers and a small screen make it particularly hard to manipulate photos, but a powerful set of algorithms makes it possible to delete a photo detail and replace it with a better image from another photo in a simple and intuitive way. You don't have to stumble over screen options on the iPhone alphabet keyboard.

The magic of algorithms -- sophisticated mathematical programming -- even enables users to line up and edit photos taken from different angles or positions. That's important for amateur and professional photographers who want the freedom to pick up and shoot without a tripod.

"We understand the user intentions ... the copying of the content even if the user has marked up only the face. Sometimes we will process the whole body, the hand or the shirt, to make the result look more reliable," Bar-On explains.

A promotional video explains how to choose the set of pictures you want to edit, with the main final one on the larger part of the screen. Swipe the face you want to replace and touch the face on the photo on the right screen. The new face is automatically replaced, without having to use a heavy set of programs like Photoshop. The creators promise there will be no bad chop-shop jobs, for instance where the face meets the neck.

‘It's magic!'

A reviewer from the high-tech tastemaker e-zine TechCrunch says GroupShot results in a perfect photo "where everyone is smiling, facing the camera, and looking their best. It's magic!"

Joining the Wild West of iPhone app developers hoping to make a big buyout or licensing deal with major firms (Nikon? Sony?), Macadamia Apps plans to create a host of visual effects and image-processing apps. With more people than ever taking high-quality photos on the fly with their handheld devices, intuitive, easy-to-use apps are much needed.

Bar-On says that by June they should have the Android version ready for people who don't have iPhones.
The company has obtained a small seed fund of $100,000 but does not want to disclose other investments in the works. Suffice it to say that the Gilad Shmuel-based company is in hiring mode, says Bar-On.