Review, AutoCollage 2008 by Microsoft Research

Edward Tsang 2011.02.26; last updated 2011.08.05; Simple demo uploaded to YouTube 2012.01.16

AutoCollage 2008 is a program that merges images together. Imagine you have been to an event and taken many photos. AutoCollage 2008 is a useful tool for producing one image from the photos, which could be used to summarize the event.

What AutoCollage Does

AutoCollage 2008 is a program that merges images together. It can be a useful tool for summarizing events with relatively little effort. Everything is done automatically. The user does not have to do a lot. On the other hand, one may argue that the user has too little control over which image to pick and which image to be placed at the centre.

How well does it merge images?

On the whole, AutoCollage 2008 does a good job. The images are smoothly blended together. It works best with faces, but not so well on the scenary or plants. Unfortunately, one has no control over where to place which image. The only controls are (a) to provide AutoCollege 2008 with selected photos, and (b) to generate collages repeately with the hope that some of them are satisfactory.

User friendliness

AutoCollage 2008 is very easy to use. You load the images, decide on how many images to appear in the collage, and click the "Create" button. Then AutoCollage 2008 will sellect the number of images that you specified, rank them and create the collage. (The image with the highest rank tend to be placed in the middle of the collage.) There is randomness built in. So if you click "Create" again, you may get a different collage.

User unfriendliness

However, the user interface could be improved. I loaded 17 images and created a collage. If I am unhappy with a particular image being present, I have no way to remove it from the loaded set of images. I have to go to the folder that I loaded the images from, remove that particular image, and then go back to AutoCollage. But I can't reload the same folder F. I have to load an irrelevant folder, and then load the folder F. This is quite inconvenient.

Under the bonnet

AutoCollage is contributed by three groups: Innovation Development, vision technology and constraint reasoning. If it is given 20 images, and asked to produce a collage with, say, 11, AutoCollage 2008 will rank the images and pick 11 of them. It is not clear how this is done. Experimentation suggests that AutoCollage 2008 attempts to recognize faces in the images. Then it tends to rank images with the most number of faces or the biggest faces highly. When there are no faces in the images, AutoCollage 2008 does not always rank the images to my satisfaction. I am showing a satisfactory collage (baking) here. There are many images that I had to discard. I was told that AutoCollage 2008 uses constraint satisfaction to determine which pixel to display and which pixel not. The blending of images seem reasonable to me.

Versions and availability

AutoCollage 2008 is available for trial. In UK, it is sold at £18. AutoCollage 2008 is available free in MSDNAA (Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance), which is set up between Microsoft and academic institutes and individuals. AutoCollage Touch 2009 is pre-installed in Windows 7.


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