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Coming Soon: PixelTone Voice-Controlled Image Editing

How would you like the ability to edit digital images using the sound of your voice? That technology could be coming to your tablet, phone or laptop soon.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have teamed up with researchers from Adobe (maker of the popular Photoshop image editing software) for a project called PixelTone. PixelTone allows you to make changes to an image simply by speaking a command.

The goal of the project is to enable you to use natural language and hand motions to easily edit photos.  Image editing software often expects users to learn the language of image processing. For example: terms like hue and saturation.

You also generally select a small area in which to make changes.  When working on a smaller device like a camera phone, this can be challenging.

Speech interfaces will make complex tasks more accessible because you can simply state your goal. You could say, “Make the background lighter.”

Researchers hope to develop a natural language interface that accepts a wide variety of commands.  In a paper on the project, researchers said they hoped the user could point to a person in an image and say, “This is Bob.” Then you would be able to tell the program to “Make Bob brighter.” or “Blur shadows to the left of Bob.” They even hope to allow the voice recognition to understand vague commands like, “Make this look better.”

They developed a prototype iPad app and tested it out with 14 users with various levels of photo editing experience. Half of the participants said they had very little experience editing photos. The participants were asked to complete 16 tasks and score the app on a scale of 1 to 5.  Thirteen out fourteen of the users said the would recommend the app to their friends.

The study points out that there’s still a lot of work to do before this is ready for the general public. The speech recognition needs improvement. Right now, it only understands simple commands. But the people behind the study seem pretty confident that you could have PixelTone or something like it on your tablet or phone someday soon.