As a long time Instagram member, one of the lessons I have learned is that people like photos that are straight and aren’t at some awkward angles. Why, I can’t tell you, but good framing, balanced composing and straight photos get people is a like-able mood. So typically, I would take my photo using Camera Plus, save it to my Photo Album and then import into Snapseed (which is now owned by Google), straighten the photo and post it to Instagram.
Not anymore – the latest version of the iOS version of the Instagram app now has the built-in ability to straighten photos. The app does this automagical correction using data from phone’s sensors. Specifically, the company is using sensors (accelerometers/gyrometers) that determine the orientation and tilt of a device. Take a picture, hit on the straighten photo icon and the sensor data corrects any shortcomings. Of course, you can fine tune the photo on your own. Still, there are little things the app does — for instance when you auto-correct the photo, it zooms into the photo so that there aren’t any empty spots. It is a little thing, but it will be appreciated by Instagrammers.
Instagram said that it had been working on an auto-straighten feature for photos for sometime, and came up with many prototypes, but they weren’t simply enough and were thus scrapped. What they came up with instead was a feature that takes sensor data from the phone and makes it easy for you to straighten the photos. On Instagram’s blog, Alex Restrepo wrote:
Most phones have a variety of sensors that allow us to determine the orientation and tilt of the device relative to a specific reference, meaning we can tell the angle of your phone at the time you took the picture. This seemed to us a way of making the feature quick and simple to use, which is something we try to achieve with every feature release…
Once you enter the straightening mode, you will notice how the photo is auto straightened in an animated way; when you tap the button the photo is rotated and zoomed in before your eyes. This animation turned out to be a very important piece of the puzzle as it helps the user understand what is happening to the photo.Once the animation is done, and in case we got the angle wrong, or in case you are simply feeling creative, you can still manually rotate the photo by dragging the wheel at the bottom of the screen. We added in other gestures for people looking to really fine-tune their pictures: if you tap on the edges of the wheel you can rotate by 0.1 degree increments. There are also two other ways to rotate the photo by using common iOS gestures: two finger rotation, or even one finger rotation, for easy interaction with just one hand.
Instagram has been using smartphone sensor signals to create a better, simpler and more intelligent experience. For instance the company has been using the location data to create a map-based navigation interface. More recently we have seen them introduce the Instagram video stabilizer that also takes some sensory input.
Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom believes that leveraging the inner capabilities of mobile phone sensors is a a better way to build a simple yet data-rich experience. Kevin is going to be on stage talking with me at our RoadMap 2013 conference about the future of application user interfaces in the mobile and data-intensive world.