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Facebook launches ‘Memories,’ a new home for reminiscing

Facebook today is introducing a dedicated page called “Memories,” where you can reflect on the moments you’ve shared with family and friends over the years. The page is essentially an expanded collection of familiar Facebook features, like “On This Day,” which lets you look back on this date last year and the years prior, as well as other memory recaps and memories you’ve shared with friends.

The content found on the Memories page isn’t necessarily new, it just now has its own section on Facebook so you can more easily find it at any time.

Among the other options you’ll see here is the “Friends Made on this Day” feature, which includes a list of friends you made on this same day in the past. You’ll also see special videos and collages to celebrate your “friendversaries” – the term Facebook coined for celebrating the day you and someone became Facebook friends.

You’ve likely seen these video collages pop up in your News Feed before with their collections of shared photos set to upbeat music.

Also on this page are “Memories You May Have Missed,” for those who don’t log in often enough to see these sharing suggestions in their Feed, and”Recaps of Memories” – meaning those seasonal or monthly recaps that have been bundled into a short video or message ready for sharing.

The social network had first introduced these memory recaps just over a year ago, as a way to encourage more personal sharing on a network where organic sharing has been on the decline.

The company has tried a number of things to try to push more people to post their own messages and comment on friends’ updates – like adding colored backgrounds for status updates and adding support for GIFs in comments, among other things.

It even bought a briefly popular teen messaging app tbh, to power a new “Did You Know” social questionnaire which outright asked Facebook users to share personal tidbits.

But these days, people aren’t sharing as much personal content on Facebook directly, as before when it was the only game in town.

Now users’ posts are spread around on other social media sites, like Snapchat and Instagram (luckily it owns this one too), as well as through private messaging channels – where Facebook also has a large stake through WhatsApp and Messenger.

Memories are also tied to Facebook’s focus on time-well-spent efforts, which aim to increase the focus on quality engagement on Facebook, even if time on site suffers as a result.

For what it’s worth, Facebook notes the Memories feature includes controls to adjust what content you want to see, as some memories are not always things you want to revisit.

“We know that memories are deeply personal — and they’re not all positive. We try to listen to feedback and design these features so that they’re thoughtful and offer people the right controls that are easy to access,” writes Facebook Product Manager, Oren Hod, in an announcement. “We work hard to ensure that we treat the content as part of each individual’s personal experience, and are thankful for the input people have shared with us over the past three years,” Hod said.

Memories will be available through the Memories bookmark either to the left of the News Feed on the desktop, in the “more” tab in the bottom right of the mobile app, through notifications and messages in the News Feed, and through Facebook.com/memories.

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Facebook’s new AI research is a real eye-opener

There are plenty of ways to manipulate photos to make you look better, remove red eye or lens flare, and so on. But so far the blink has proven a tenacious opponent of good snapshots. That may change with research from Facebook that replaces closed eyes with open ones in a remarkably convincing manner. It’s far from the only example of intelligent “in-painting,” as the technique is called when a program fills in a space with what it thinks belongs there. Adobe in particular has made good use of it with its “context-aware fill,” allowing users to seamlessly replace undesired features, for example a protruding branch or a cloud, with a pretty good guess at what would be there if it weren’t. But some features are beyond the tools’ capacity to replace, one of which is eyes. Their detailed and highly variable nature make it particularly difficult for a system to change or create them realistically. Facebook, which probably has more pictures of people blinking than any other entity in history, decided to take a crack at this problem. It does so with a Generative Adversarial Network, essentially a machine learning system that tries to fool itself into thinking its creations are real. In a GAN, one part of the system learns to recognize, say, faces, and another part of the system repeatedly creates images that, based on feedback from the recognition part, gradually grow in realism. From left to right: “Exemplar” images, source images, Photoshop’s eye-opening algorithm, and Facebook’s method. In this case the network is trained to both recognize and replicate convincing open eyes. This could be done already, but as you can see in the examples at right, existing methods left something to be desired. They seem to paste in the eyes of the people without much consideration for consistency with the rest of the image. Machines are naive that way: they have no intuitive understanding that opening one’s eyes does not also change the color of the skin around them. (For that matter, they have no intuitive understanding of eyes, color, or anything at all.) What Facebook’s researchers did was to include “exemplar” data showing the target person with their eyes open, from which the GAN learns not just what eyes should go on the person, but how the eyes of this particular person are shaped, colored, and so on. The results are quite realistic: there’s no color mismatch or obvious stitching because the recognition part of the network knows that that’s not how the person looks. In testing, people mistook the fake eyes-opened photos for real ones, or said they couldn’t be sure which was which, more than half the time. And unless I knew a photo was definitely tampered with, I probably wouldn’t notice if I was scrolling past it in my newsfeed. Gandhi looks a little weird, though. It still fails in some situations, creating weird artifacts if a person’s eye is partially covered by a lock of hair, or sometimes failing to recreate the color correctly. But those are fixable problems. You can imagine the usefulness of an automatic eye-opening utility on Facebook that checks a person’s other photos and uses them as reference to replace a blink in the latest one. It would be a little creepy, but that’s pretty standard for Facebook, and at least it might save a group photo or two.

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