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Google Photos’ smarter sharing features start rolling out

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Google rolled out today one of the more interesting features it announced during its I/O conference in May: the ability to easily share pictures with friends and family in Google Photos.

The updated Photo app adds a fourth dedicated tab, labeled “sharing,” at the bottom of the app’s screen. Selecting the tab opens a screen that includes suggested photos to share with contacts, as well as photo albums recently shared with you and others. Users can also search for photos to share by keyword, location, or name. Tapping on the search box will offer up a few suggestions of each or allow users to enter an email address or phone number not included in contacts.

Facial recognition is a big part of the AI-powered suggestions. Google Photos will show a collection of faces that appear in your photo collection, and tapping on one will bring up a group of photos where they appear. It will also notice when you often share photos with a specific person and suggest new pictures to send them. People you share an album with can also add their own photos to it.

Another new feature is shared libraries, which automatically sends all pictures you add to a library with a specific person. Library sharing can be limited to photos of particular individuals or to a specific time range, notifying the recipient as new photos arrive. The automatic sharing feature, designed for couples or family members, will appeal to users depending on how comfortable they are with unfiltered sharing of photos.

The new features bring to Google Photos a social element that has always presented a challenge to Google. They make Photos an even more useful app than it was, even if there are a few quirks in its facial recognition. It failed to distinguish between identical twins in my family, even though they look pretty different to my eyes, and all pets seemed to be lumped together. All in all, this update looks to be a foundation that Google can build on to strengthen social features powered by AI.

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