Except, maybe you actually can now, thanks to Google’s new PhotoScan app. As you might guess from the name, it allows you to scan your old photos right from your phone, and it uses some machine learning tricks to make sure they don’t show up as a blurry mess.
Google Photos launched with the intent of getting all your photos onto the cloud. Problem is, a lot of us still have about a bazillion old photos in print, which you can’t exactly upload to the Web over the course of a few minutes.
If you’ve ever tried to take a photo of your old prints, chances are you’ve encountered a fair bit of glare from overhead lights or shadows from your body leaning over images. PhotoScan uses machine learning to composite multiple images and override those artifacts.
The process involves opening the app, hovering your phone over the print, and then lining up the image with four dots that show up above the print – similar to making a photosphere or Street View image. If the app screws up a bit and crops the photo improperly, you can adjust the crop area of the image.
I tried the app out myself, and it worked without a hitch. Results were fairly consistent, and even with the flash on full blast (which Google recommends for the additional illumination indoors) PhotoScan manages to avoid any glare.
Of course, these were with sample images provided by Google, and the company says it’s best to scan the images on a surface with a contrasting background, but it’s impressively fast compared to using a traditional flatbed scanner, let alone shipping the images to a scanning service.
That said, the images right now aren’t particularly high resolution – Google says 3-6 megapixels on the small 6 x 4 photos I tried the app on, but quality could increase over time, depending on the resolution of your phone’s camera.
PhotoScan is rolling out on Android and iOS today, launching just in time for the holidays – though family is sure to surface embarrassing images you don’t want uploaded anyway.