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Skype for iOS borrows from Snapchat by adding machine learning-based photo filters

By Malcolm Owen

Microsoft has updated Skype for iOS to include new Snapchat-style filters in the iPhone and iPad messaging app, with the additional stickers and photo effects borrowing heavily from Sprinkles, an experimental iPhone camera app that relied on machine learning Microsoft released in April.

The new photo effects within Skype can be applied to still images that can be sent to other users. Tapping the magic wand icon after taking a photograph within the app enables one effect from a selection of different options, which can be changed by swiping to the side.

The effects themselves include witty captions, a celebrity lookalike, location and weather data, face swaps, stickers, and celebrity lookalike suggestions, the official Skype blog reveals. They also take into account the date and time, the location, and items seen within the image and change to reflect what appears, such as generating a happy comment if a photographed individual is smiling, or detecting where the subject's eyes are to place a mask.

The AI-powered feature was previously available as part of the Sprinkles app, released earlier this year, which used machine learning to identify what could be seen within the image. Captions generated within the experimental app could describe elements of the scene, with the machine learning also capable of estimating the subject's age, among other elements.

Microsoft claims the effects provided to users in Skype will change every day, as well as hinting that there will be some special items available to use during holidays and significant events.

Once created, the images can then be shared in a conversation or posted to Highlights, a feature introduced as part of the iOS app's major refresh in June. Borrowing from Snapchat's Stories, Highlights lets users apply stickers and text to a photo or video, which can be shared with friends and groups before becoming unavailable to view one week later, rather than the 24-hour limit of Snapchat.

As part of the same update, Skype expanded its selection of chat bots, changes to how messages appear in group chats, and the ability to co-watch content from YouTube and other services.

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