Google Photos redesigns its Memories feature with vertical swiping, more video and other creative tools

As consumer social apps shift their focus to video for social expression and adopt more creative tools, like those for collage-making, Google Photos’ often more utilitarian app will now do the same. The company today announced an upgrade to Google Photos and its app for mobile devices that will better highlight users’ videos, create visual effects with photos set to music, introduce its own collage editor and more.

The additions are a part of a larger upgrade to Google Photos’ Memories feature, first introduced in 2019.

A combination of something like Stories and Facebook’s Memories, Google Photos’ Memories similarly helps users look back at their older photos, organized into collections at the top of the app’s main screen — where Stories are often found in social apps. Last year, Google Photos upgraded Memories using machine learning technology to identify patterns across your photos and added other types of Memories, like those that highlighted things like events and holidays.

Now, Google is rolling out another redesign to Memories, which introduces more video into the experience.

The service will automatically select and trim the best snippets from your longer videos using machine learning as part of this enhancement, Google says.

The changes come at a time when tech companies are seeing increased use of video among users. Meta earlier this year said Reels was making up 20% of the time users spent on Instagram and video overall makes up 50% of the time users spent on Facebook, for example. Google Photos is seeing a similar trend. The company tells TechCrunch video uploads grew four times faster than photo uploads over the past two years, which is why it has chosen to invest in more video tools.

The updated version of Google Photos will also do more with music, including by adding music to more Memories and setting multiple still photos to music in its “Cinematic Photos” visual effect feature. Launched in 2020, Cinematic Photos leverages machine learning to create 3D versions of your photos by predicting the image’s depth, then animating a smooth panning effect. It later expanded this effect to include stitched-together photos it called Cinematic Moments, which also give an illusion of a more 3D-like image.

Another new set of features in today’s update is focused on enhancing creativity and social sharing.

This includes a new feature called Styles, which automatically adds graphic art to your Memories by placing them on colorful backgrounds, for instance. Artists Shantell Martin and Lisa Congdon contributed to this feature at launch.

As demand for Pinterest’s new collage maker Shuffles heats up, Google Photos is jumping on this trend with its own collage editor that will let users select a design, pick out and edit photos, then rearrange their layout using drag-and-drop controls.

Image Credits: Google

Photo Memories can also now be shared with friends and family, starting on Android with iOS and web to come.

A smaller, but interesting addition — and one not noted by Google’s official announcement — involves how you navigate through Memories following the update.

While you can still tap left or right to move between the photos within a given Memory — as you would with most Stories — when you move through Memories, you’ll now swipe up and down.

This user interface design choice, of course, is a nod to TikTok, whose vertical video feed has infiltrated so many top consumer apps.

With Memories becoming more video heavy with this update, it’s possible that some users’ retrospectives will now feel more like personal, private TikToks rather than static Stories going forward.

The updates are rolling out today to Google Photos and its mobile app.