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The Google I/O outcome: a plethora of photo-related innovations coming your way

May 16, 2018 by Hans Hartman

No matter the much-publicized announcements for Google Assistant that it will soon make robotized calls on your behalf to schedule appointments and will teach your children (or you) some manners by enticing you to include the word "please" in your instructions, last week's Google I/O was first and foremost a developer conference that highlighted how we'll be able to enjoy our photos and videos even more than we do today. For Google this means: empowering our imagery through AI. Here is a high-level overview of the announcements.

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Announcing Visual 1st 2018: initial program, speakers and sponsors

April 25, 2018 by Hans Hartman

I am very pleased to announce our initial plans for Visual 1st (formerly Mobile Photo Connect) this year. My partner Alexis Gerard and I very much hope you can join us! 

Conference theme this year: Strategies for success in today's photo/video ecosystem: Creating, leveraging and monetizing the building blocks.

We are very pleased to have Omar Arambula, co-founder & COO of Munkee, makers of InstaSize, tell about his company's remarkable journey, starting as a single-purpose app and transforming into an allround and subscription-based app that has generated 200M downloads to date.

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Beyond smartphones and digital cameras - The Long Tail of Cameras study

April 25, 2018 by Hans Hartman

Why this study?

We know all this: Thanks to the smartphone - the camera that's always in our pockets and keeps getting better - people take more photos than ever before. But does this mean there is no longer space for other cameras? 

Unit sales of digital cameras keep declining, especially of compact cameras. But what about their usage? Are they collecting dust or are they still actively, but selectively, used? 

And how about all these other camera types with specialized functionality? Do people buy them? How much are they being used? And what makes people buy them, use them, or consider buying them?

The survey

We conducted an online survey among 1055 North American respondents who take at least 5 photos a month, and weighted the answers for gender and age. 

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Going blockchain? Two imaging examples

April 11, 2018 by Hans Hartman

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Global Blockchain Forum and immersing myself in this for me mostly new world of ICO seekers, self-proclaimed investors, blockchain developers, VCs suffering from FOMO, and libertarians and anarchists from all over the world for which the prime method of communication is Telegram - because you never know who'll be looking over your shoulder...

And yes, there were two interesting implementations of blockchain in the imaging world: KodakOne and CryptoPicture.

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News from the visual-first ecosystem

March 28, 2018 by Hans Hartman

News from dubble, Instasize, Lytro, CaptureLife, Precious, Facebook, Google, Popsa, Modiface, Nikon, Canon, Vivid-Pix, and more

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The top-ranking photo apps:
their age, ratings, and domicile

March 15, 2018 by Hans Hartman

I often get asked how I keep track of all the photo and video apps that are on the market or are being introduced. My answer is twofold: first, I track a large number of news sites that cover promising new photo and video apps; second, every three months I diligently add or update the top-ranking photo apps listed in the US Google Play and Apple App stores inside my homegrown database. 

And then I doodle with the rankings to see if I can find any interesting trends. 

Let me share with you the takeaways of my latest doodling with the February 1 rankings of the top 100 photo apps, comprised of the top 20 paid, free, and grossing apps for iOS as well as Android.

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The potential of AR for printed photo products

Embedding videos is a start, but just that

March 1, 2018 by Hans Hartman and Floris van Eck

AR is changing forever how we perceive the world - with our AR-enabled smartphones we can already add virtual items to what we see in real life (such as a 3D representation of a meal displayed on our plate when we scan a restaurant menu item); we can perceive variations of the items we are considering buying (such as changing the colors of a backpack we're inspecting in the store); or we can play with our virtual pets wherever we like. And this is just the beginning. In a few years' time, we simply expect our entire physical world to be augmented whenever and however we want.

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The untapped potential of mono-brand stores for the imaging industry

Takeaways from my visits to the Leica, WhiteWall, and Fujifilm Wonder Photo Shop stores

February 14, 2018 by Hans Hartman

Mono-brand stores are on the rise. We're all familiar with the success of Apple stores, which allow us to experience Apple's computers and devices hands-on, receive more knowledgeable advice than we get in the average consumer electronics retail store, or have our gear repaired by "Geniuses."

Apple was neither the first vendor with mono-brand stores, nor the last. E.g., in the world of computers and consumer electronics Microsoft, Garmin, Bose, and Amazon all have their own stores. So do Nike, Levis Strauss and many others in the world of fashion and apparel. Even a bathroom and kitchen fixture and equipment manufacturer like Kohler now has their own Signature Stores, where we flush the toilet of our dreams or compare the water streams from various shower heads. 

Mono-brand stores have clear benefits ...

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News analysis: Shutterfly buys Lifetouch –
Wall Street is happy, but for how long?

January 31, 2018 by Hans Hartman

It's a good deal, right? The US leader in consumer photo print products, Shutterfly, buys the US leader in professional photo print products, Lifetouch, for $825M, less than 1 x Lifetouch's annual revenues of $964M. Lifetouch caters to professional photographers who provide their services at schools, churches, and portrait studios - markets that are complementary to Shutterfly's. Lifetouch is also profitable with EBITDA of $111M. Shutterfly's revenues will almost double in the short term, and over time I expect the companies will integrate operations, which should produce significant cost savings. It's no surprise that yesterday Shutterfly's stock shot up by 19%.

So, why is Wall Street all wrong and is this a bad deal for our friends in Redwood City?

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Study finds ample supply of innovative apps to jumpstart consumer AR adoption

January 25, 2018 by Hans Hartman and Floris van Eck

Augmented reality is poised to forever change how consumers experience the world – From apps that control noise-canceling headphones to remove unwanted sound to shopping apps that show how a new couch would look in our living room, via apps that embed enticing videos on our child's favorite storybook pages, consumer AR apps are here now.

According to the just published Consumer AR App Trends study by Suite 48 Analytics, they're no longer future promises waiting to be developed when the ideal AR hardware has come to market. The first wave of consumer AR apps is already here, and a range of new AR tool development platforms offered by the large OS, social media and cloud storage providers all but guarantees this is just the beginning.

The study analyzes 87 consumer AR apps, and classifies them into 20 distinct categories

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Camera Companies Reach Out to Imaging Start-up Developers

January 11, 2018 by Hans Hartman

Few tech companies can go it all alone. In the technology industry at large, providing programmatic access to one's software or hardware is a standard practice for building ecosystems around one's platform. This is not a sign of weakness. Even the Big 5 consumer tech companies (Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon) offer APIs (application program interfaces) or SDKs (software development kits) to enable start-up developers to create solutions that leverage, and boost, their platforms.

Vendors don't just passively offer their APIs or SDKs. They often go all out in promoting their solutions to (potential) developers, for instance through high-profile and well-attended developer conferences. These include Apple's WWDC, Facebook's F8 and Google I/O, where developers get showered with expensive swag and cooler-than-cool parties.

(...) How about camera companies?

We reached out to several camera vendors and recorded the initiatives from three. They are a digital camera vendor (Canon), an action cam vendor (GoPro) and a 360º camera vendor (Ricoh).

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5 Takeaways from Mobile Photo Connect 2017, part 2

November 29, 2017 by Hans Hartman

  • Heuristic Imaging - The next major disruptor will be AI in conjunction with depth imaging, allowing for Heuristic Imaging, i.e. the ability for machines to not just intelligently analyze images, but also to reason and take action on the basis of this image analysis
  • Photo and Video Storage - Relying on large cloud storage providers or small startups for long term photo storage is risky in either case
  • Visual AI - With more smartphone computing power now available, developers can make pragmatic choices as to whether to run AI processes in the cloud or on the phone, to best take advantage of either platform

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5 Takeaways from Mobile Photo Connect 2017, part 1

November 29, 2017 by Hans Hartman

  • Visual 1st, a new conference name - after 5 years of Mobile Photo Connect, it's time for reflection and refocus
  • Google - Google's visual content and machine learning tools strengthen each other. By offering both visual content properties and machine learning tools, Google is in a unique position to leverage as well as fine-tune its visual AI algorithms
  • Adobe - Any-device editing requires a delicate balance between feature parity and device-optimized UI

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2017 Visual 1st Awards go to Photomyne, PastBook, V360, and Streetography

October 30, 2017 by Hans Hartman

At Visual 1st (visual1st.biz), the newly rebranded premier conference focused on promoting innovation and partnerships in the photo and video ecosystem, formerly known as Mobile Photo Connect, a panel of high-powered industry observers presented the four Visual 1st Awards to the most outstanding among 30 products competing in this year’s show-and-tell demo sessions.

The 2017 Visual 1st Awards winners are:

  • Best of Show Award: Photomyne, by Photomyne
  • Best Business Potential Award: PastBook, by PastBook
  • Best Technology Award: V360, by Sharalike
  • Special Recognition Award: Streetography, by Streetography

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Mobile Photo Connect conference is now Visual 1st

October 30, 2017 by Hans Hartman

Affirming that visuals are at the core of how consumers communicate and retain their memories, Mobile Photo Connect, the premier conference focused on promoting innovation and partnerships in the photo and video ecosystem, is being re-branded as Visual 1st (visual1st.biz). Conference chair Hans Hartman introduced the new name at the 5th annual Mobile Photo Connect event last week.

In his keynote address, Hartman outlined five key market trends which all point to the pervasive and prominent role of visuals in today’s communication and memory retention platforms:

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    Monetizing Photo Apps -
    print products to the rescue

    October 5, 2017 by Hans Hartman

    The need for monetization is part of the challenging new reality that photo app developers face these days - monetization no longer at some point in the future, but soon, if not today. A range of options for doing so are available, the appropriate one will depend on the size of an app's user base, the types of users, the way the app enables its users to interact with their photos, and the funding of the photo app startup, among other factors.  

    Below, we'll illustrate these options with examples of companies that will present at Mobile Photo Connect, to be held October 24-25 in San Francisco.

    When your user base is large enough, and your users engage with their photos on a regular basis and virally share them with others, there is no lack of options: from advertising, to brand sponsorships, to charging for the app, to offering photo print products.

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    Regaind, winner of last year's Mobile Photo Connect Best Technology Award, acquired by Apple! 

    October 2, 2017 by Hans Hartman

    Congrats to Arnaud Laurenty and Guillaume Seguin, co-founders of Regaind, the French computer vision startup that won last year's Mobile Photo Connect Best Technology Award. As was reported right before the weekend, they've been acquired by Apple.

    They join an illustrious lineup of previous Mobile Photo Connect presenters whose companies have been acquired after their Mobile Photo Connect appearance:

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      Innovative solution providers tackle the ever-growing headaches of photo management and storage

      September 27, 2017 by Hans Hartman

      It's a given: we are all overwhelmed by the sheer number of photos we take, or that are being shared with us. With some of these, it's no big deal if you accidentally missed viewing them, or if you can't locate them again after you've first enjoyed them. With others, it does matter: According to our recent survey, 58% of photos on average are considered to be "long life" keepers.

      So we want to know on which device or cloud service these important photos reside, and how to find them. As if that weren't challenging enough, we also want to be able to safely back them up in case something goes wrong with the device on which they most likely reside (read: our phone) or archive them, in case that phone runs out of storage space.

      The good news is we're now seeing innovative vendors of photo app, device, and cloud storage solutions tackling the multiple challenges related to how consumers find and browse the photos that matter to them.

      The following is an overview of these solutions, several of which will be demonstrated or discussed at our upcoming Mobile Photo Connect conference, October 24-25 in San Francisco:

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      AI: it’s time to take image recognition beyond auto-tagging

      September 14, 2017 by Hans Hartman

      At Mobile Photo Connect we’ve covered AI from the days when AI-based image recognition technologies first left the realm of academics and morphed into apps and services for automatically classifying consumers’ image collections. 

      Three years ago we enjoyed having on stage Matt Zeiler, discussing the products of his then 2-person startup, Clarifai (the company now has 55+ employees, has raised $40M, and is reportedly valued at $120M).  The same year we also had Yi Li, CEO of Orbeus, share her perspectives on image recognition (Orbeus has since been acquired by Amazon and its technology supplies many of the face and image recognition features in Amazon Photos).                                    

      Fast forward to today.  AI for face recognition and auto-tagging images (“find my photos with cats in them”) has matured so much that it has become a commodity, while innovative new AI applications are being developed both inside and outside our consumer imaging industry (think of camera-equipped self-driving cars that interpret visual information in real-time, for instance).

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      The iPhone X deep-dive – Why this phone will disrupt the mobile imaging ecosystem

      September 14, 2017 by Floris van Eck

      After months of speculation, on Wednesday Apple unveiled its new flagship phone, the iPhone X. This new addition to the Apple family marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, the device that changed the world at a scale and in a time span, no one, not even Steve Jobs, could have foreseen.

      What makes the iPhone X unique isn't its design (I am personally of the opinion that Apple's design has been uninspired for years), or even its massively immersive 5.8" OLED screen - it is the machine learning, depth imaging sensors and processors that set it apart and justify the phone's $999 entry price point. The iPhone X is a groundbreaking device that gives us a window into the future of mobile imaging.

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      Going Deep – the race for depth imaging smartphones is on

      August 15, 2017 by Hans Hartman

      Our smartphones will soon be depth imaging devices, featuring cameras that measure depth information for each part of the image.  Lenovo already came out with the Google Tango-based Phab 2 phone last year and with the upcoming release of the iPhone 8 we'll finally find out why Apple paid $350M to acquire the Israeli company PrimeSense back in 2013 (PrimeSense originally provided the technology behind the Microsoft Kinect game accessory).

      The market for depth imaging and sensing devices is booming, according to the recently released Smartphone Depth Sensing report from Woodside Capital Partners and Yole Développement

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      Photo storage 4.0 - it's deduplication, stupid!

      August 2, 2017 by Hans Hartman

      Today, I'd like to share the second part of our photo storage survey findings that relate to how and why consumers store their smartphone photos on cloud services or home storage devices, as well as what features they most value in photo organizing apps or services.

      Why store photos in the cloud?
      On a 5-step scale from totally unimportant to extremely important, the ability to back up photos in the cloud is most frequently considered important or extremely important, followed by the ability to aggregate one's photos in an easy or automatic way and the option to access all one's photos from any device.

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      Reality check: taking, keeping, storing smartphone photos

      July 19, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      VR: a dud? Or has it barely started?

      June 29, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      WWDC takeaways: lots of great news for photo app developers, but one major puzzler

      June 8, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      Google I/O: what's wrong with a lack of jaw-dropping announcements?

      May 23, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      Announcing Mobile Photo Connect 2017

      Expanding to 1.5-day program; attractive Early Bird VIP program

      May 11, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      Move over Snap:
      Facebook is the camera company to beat

      It's the platform, stupid

      April 25, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      Canon’s acquisition of Kite –
      the view from the stakeholders

      April 13, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      The unstoppable rise of Stories

      New social visual story telling format strikes a chord in social networks and chat services

      March 22, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      The five most interesting product launches at Mobile World Congress (Barcelona) and Business Forum Imaging (Cologne)

      Nostalgia, minimalistic product design,
      and a new approach for connecting DSLRs to the cloud

      March 9, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      The unpredicted but explainable comeback
      of instant printing

      Camera-printers and Snapchat; retro photo prints and Instagram; instant sharing and WhatsApp – today’s instant printing popularity is more than a niche phenomenon

      February 22, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      From Artificial Intelligence to
      Intelligent Imaging

      AI buzz is everywhere – but smart imaging innovations are flourishing
      right inside our industry

      February 7, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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      CONNECTING CAMERAS TO ENGAGEMENT

      What Snapchat, GoPro and Giroptic have in common

      January 25, 2017 by Hans Hartman

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