Instagram Video Update Offers The Ability To Hear You
July 8, 2013

Instagram Video Update Offers The Ability To Hear You

Michael Harper for -- Your Universe Online

Last Friday, Instagram released an update to their iOS app which gives users the ability to shoot photos and videos in landscape mode and with front-facing cameras.

In addition to many other improvements and bug fixes, the new Instagram update focuses on improving "Cinema," the video capturing portion of the app. This new update also brings stabilization technology to the video-shooting portion of the app. While landscape mode has long been supported when shooting stills, the feature was noticeably absent in video mode. Facebook-owned Instagram rolled out 15-second videos late last month, putting them in direct competition with the Twitter-owned video sharing service, Vine.

According to Josh Constine of TechCrunch, this new feature and new updates could allow Facebook to leverage Instagram in a way that's not all that surprising.

After shooting a video in Instagram, the app asks users to select a cover frame to front the clip and even suggests a few frames which may best represent the video. According to Constine, Instagram is able to do this thanks to some patents Facebook acquired earlier this year called Automatic Photo Capture, Preferred Images and Image Selection from Captured Video. Though it was unclear in the beginning what these patents may have been used for (they're quite similar to patents granted to the popular failed app Color), Instagram's video feature now reveals how this technology is being used.

When a video is captured, users can scrub their fingers over 15 selected images from the video to choose a cover frame. These patents are meant to help Facebook and Instagram choose the best images by understanding when a person is in the shot, who that person is and where the video is being taken.

Facebook's patents also could allow Instagram video to "listen" to the video being shot to look for key moments in the short clip and determine the cover frame. Just as Facebook can understand (more or less) who is in a photo uploaded to the social site, it could use this technology to look through the video, frame by frame, to determine when a person is in the shot and who that person is. Geolocation data could also be used in concert with these patents to identify brands or landmarks.

According to a Techcrunch article posted by Constine yesterday, the detection patent is described this way:

"The image capturing process may analyze frames of the sequence of video frames to identify...a place (e.g., Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite National Park, Hollywood), a business or an organization (e.g., a coffee shop, San Francisco Giants), or a brand or product (e.g., Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton)."

Using the device's microphones just as Color did, Instagram could also listen for high points in the film, such as explosive laughter when someone falls off a bar stool after having a few too many.

With these patents (and other information), Instagram is essentially able to know who is in their videos, where the video is being taken and what's being said or heard in the clip.

With Instagram's new tagging service, this information is used to detect friends in a photo or video and tag them as one would in a Facebook post. As it is now owned by Facebook, it seems safe to suggest Instagram could one day use all this information -- particularly brand recognition -- to serve ads to its users.

As it stands, Facebook could use some of this information to place the video more prominently in the News Feed of users who are close by or users who "like" the particular brand or location seen in the video. While neither company has addressed if they plan to use these patents to feed advertisements to users, it doesn't seem too farfetched to assume they may try to one day soon.