My Favorite iOS 16 Feature: Tap to Lift a Pet from Your Photo

This story is part of WWDC 2022CNET’s full coverage of Apple’s annual developer conference.

apples iOS 16 will include many new iPhone features such as editable messages and a customizable lock screen† But there was one feature that really caught my attention during WWDC 2022despite recording less than 15 seconds of the event.

The feature hasn’t been named, but here’s how it works: You tap and hold a photo to separate the subject of a photo, such as a person, from the background. And while you’re holding it, you can “lift” the crop out of the photo and drag it into another app to post, share, or create a collage, for example.

Technically, the tap-and-lift photo feature is part of Visual Lookup, which first launched with iOS 15, and can recognize objects in your photos, such as plants, food, landmarks, and even pets. In iOS 16, Visual Lookup lets you lift that object out of a photo or PDF by doing nothing but tap and hold.

Robby Walker, Apple senior director of Siri Language and Technologies, demonstrated the new tap-and-lift tool in a photo of a French bulldog. The dog was “cut out” from the photo and then dragged and dropped into the text field of a message.

“It feels like magic,” Walker said.

Sometimes Apple uses the word “magic” too much, but this tool seems impressive. Walker was quick to point out that the effect was the result of an advanced machine learning model, accelerated by machine learning and Apple’s neural engine to perform 40 billion operations in a second.

When I know how much processing and machine learning it takes to cut a dog out of a photo, I love it. Often, new phone features have to be revolutionary or solve a serious problem. I guess you could say that the tap and hold tool solves the problem of removing the background from a photo, which could be serious business for some.

I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance to another photo feature in iOS 16. On the lock screen, the photo editor separates the foreground subject from the background from the photo used for your background. This makes it so that lock screen elements like the time and date can be placed after the subject of your wallpaper, but before the background of the photo. This makes it look like the cover of a magazine.

I haven’t been able to try out the new Visual Lookup feature, so instead I watched the part of the WWDC keynote where that French bulldog keeps getting pulled out of his picture. If you have a spare iPhone to try this one, a developer beta for iOS 16 is already available and a public beta of iOS 16 will be released in July.

For more, check out everything Apple announced at WWDC 2022including the new M2 MacBook Air

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