Apple’s auto-generated Memories videos are still kind of weird in iOS 11

Starting with iOS 10, Apple has been scanning iPhone users’ photo libraries and automatically creating nostalgic videos it calls Memories. They’re basically slideshows of what it deems to be meaningful photos and videos from your collection, set to music, and arranged around a theme. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and sometimes you’ll remember that time you took a picture of the frozen pizza baking directions.

iOS 11, released to the general public yesterday, brought some updates to Memories. They’re now portrait-format friendly, and more Memories will be automatically created around a wider range of subjects and themes. But if my first Memory video after downloading iOS 11 is any indication, Apple hasn’t gotten much smarter about what photos to include.

An interesting photo for Instagram, but not a moment I wanted to reminisce about months later. It’s hard for a computer to know the difference.

Though it does a few things well – it generally picks up on the fact that I like nice photos of my boyfriend and me – Apple’s algorithm makes some pretty weird choices. My latest Memory, titled “Best of the last 2 months,” opens on an image of a discarded Craisins box on a bed of grass. I thought it was an interesting photo for Instagram, but not a moment I wanted to reminisce about months later. It’s hard for a computer to know the difference.

The misses are all much funnier because of the slightly dramatic treatment: panning, gentle transitions and music give the impression of something that’s been carefully curated to invoke nostalgia. It’s all very serious, and works very well for a post-hike selfie with a majestic backdrop. It’s downright laughable when it’s a photo of some acne-treating serum I took a picture of to send to my sister.

Ah, how I cherished this moment.

To be completely fair, Memories videos are meant to be customized and edited by the human viewing them. The algorithm gets you to a starting point, and it’s up to you to take out the shots that don’t work. And it’s a little bit narcissistic, but it’s kind of fun to watch a slideshow of your best moments over the past few months.

With new iterations, Apple’s subject recognition and photo-picking algorithm will no doubt get smarter, and the automatic videos will get better. Hopefully it’ll learn to ignore the kind of shots that are taken for utilitarian purposes, but it’s already pretty good with some stuff – it correctly identified photos of my boyfriend and put together a slideshow of images of him from baseball games and vacations. More of that please, Apple, and less reminders of my life with acne-prone skin.

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