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Apple has built a new generative AI tool for animating images

Two images generated by AI and then animated -- such as the rocket taking off -- following the user's prompts

Researchers at Apple have created Keyframer, a test generative AI app that lets users describe an image and how they want it to animate.

It's not been long since Apple was being described as behind the rest of the technology industry over its adoption of AI. That was always nonsense because Apple's Machine Learning has been key to iOS for years, but then researchers at the company published academic papers including one on AI avatars.

Now another research paper has been published, and this time a trio of Apple researchers have been investigating and testing an app for "empowering animation design using Large Language Models." Called Keyframer, the AI app lets users describe an animation, and it then generates CSS animation code for websites.

Keyframer has not been released publicly, and its testing appears to have been quite limited. The three researchers, Tiffany Tseng, Ruijia Cheng, and Jeffrey Nichols, write that their study was based chiefly on 13 participants.

Those participants began by writing a plain-English description of what image they wanted. So far this is how Adobe Firefly AI works, too.

However, with Firefly and similar existing apps, once an image has been generated, the user can only use the app's manual controls to adjust or enhance it. What Apple's Keyframer was designed to do was let the users iterate through designs by continuing to describe what they need, or what they want removed.

Specifically, the paper describes previous attempts at generative AI image work as "one-shot prompting interfaces." In comparison, Keyframer was built so that a user could continue prompting multiple times on the same image.

Detail from the research paper showing code generated automatically after a user's description
Detail from the research paper showing code generated automatically after a user's description

"This is just so magical because I have no hope of doing such animations manually...," one novice participant said after using Keyframer. "I would find [it] very difficult to even know where to start with getting it to do this without this tool."

"Part of me is kind of worried about these tools replacing jobs, because the potential is so high," a professional animator told the researchers. "But I think learning about them and using them as an animator — it's just another tool in our toolbox."

"It's only going to improve our skills," he or she continued. "It's really exciting stuff."

While the research paper — a 31 page, 16,000 word document — has been published, Keyframer itself has not been released and is solely an in-house testing app.

Its existence, however, backs up claims that Apple has been extensively testing generative AI. It's rumored that Apple will unveil significant AI-related improvements to the likes of iOS and Siri, at WWDC 2024.