Microsoft Pix can now turn your iPhone photos into art, thanks to artificial intelligence

Microsoft is rolling out an update to its AI-powered photo editing app, Microsoft Pix, that aims to give Prisma and others like it some new competition. While the app was originally designed to enhance your iPhone photos by tweaking things like color, exposure and other variables, the newly updated Microsoft Pix will now let you have a little more fun with your photos, too – this time, by turning them into art.

Similar to Prisma, the new app introduces a feature called Pix Styles, which allows you to transform your photos into works of art, and use other effects. For example, one effect will make the picture look like it’s on fire. These are not photo filters, to be clear – the styles actually transfer texture, pattern and tones to the photo, explains Microsoft.

The app launches today with 11 styles included, but more will be added in the weeks ahead, the company says.

Also like Prisma, you can swipe your finger across the style to increase or reduce the effect. When you’re done, you can frame the photo, crop it, or share it out to social networks, as before.

Another new feature – Pix Paintings – takes a step beyond Prisma, Lucid, Pikazo, Dreamscope and other “photo-to-art” apps, as it lets you see a time-lapse of the photo being painted in the artistic style you selected. This is more entertaining than it is practical, but it’s a nifty trick.

Microsoft says that the new features were developed in collaboration with Microsoft’s Asia research lab and Skype, and leverage an A.I. processing approach called deep neural networks. This is what’s used to train large datasets. For Pix, that means lots of paintings were used to train the A.I. in order to learn the various styles.

It’s also the same technology that Google experimented with in order to produce a new kind of trippy, machine-created art – some of which it showed off at an exhibit last year.

“These are meant to be fun features,” said Josh Weisberg, a principal program manager in the Computational Photography Group within Microsoft’s research organization in Redmond, in an announcement. “In the past, a lot of our efforts were focused on using AI and deep learning to capture better moments and better image quality. This is more about fun. I want to do something cool and artistic with my photos,” he says.

Also worth noting is that these new features can be used without tapping into your phone’s data plan, or while your phone is offline. That’s because Pix works directly on your device itself to run its calculations – it doesn’t need to access the cloud. This is part of a broader effort at Microsoft to shift A.I. from the cloud to devices at the edge of the network, the company says.

The app is a free download on the App Store.