Posted by Rob Knies

Blink-mode view

Earlier this month, members of the Interactive Visual Media (IVM) group received a most welcome email from John Ransier, who handles app management for Microsoft Research.

The email reported that IVM’s Blink app had just been downloaded for the millionth time. It was a remarkable milestone for Blink, initially released a mere 13 months earlier. The app, as its many fans are already aware, enables users to capture, create, and share short, dynamic media using Windows Phone 8.

“Needless to say, we were ecstatic hearing the news,” says Krishnan Ramnath, an IVM senior research software-development engineer. “ It’s hugely fulfilling and humbling at the same time to have reached this milestone, and it is even more reason to get Microsoft Research technology into people’s hands.”

That’s precisely what the Blink team is doing on March 20. A new download is now available that will offer additional features that provide even more flexibility and ease of use to Blink converts.

The Blink update offers the ability to toggle between modes: a Blink mode to edit captured images and to share animations via social media, and a Still mode to enable saving and sharing of your best Blink shots. The new Blink also gives users the ability to tap a touchscreen to select a region that will then remain in focus even when the phone is moved.

The most significant new feature, though, might be Blink’s improved image alignment, which eliminates erratic, jumpy imagery and sets this app apart from similar ones on the marketplace.

“The unique thing about Blink,” Ramnath says, “is the video-stabilization technology that aligns all the shots to each other and removed camera shake or jitter. You see the benefit of this when you play back the animation or just slide quickly through the capture sequence. We continue to improve this with every update.”

Other improvements include a gallery-review feature that provides quick access to your previously captured Blinks. For users who keep a Blink live tile on their Windows Phone start screen, the live tile now displays images from your collection of Blinks.

To make using Blink easier, the update includes additional user-interface elements. The team also has included a tutorial for the new users who continue to flock to Blink.

“Blink is all about keeping it simply simple,” Ramnath says.” We focused on the capture, edit, share, and view experience and tailored the app so the user can quickly go from capture to share with easy edits and can always come back to the app for a rich viewing experience. Other apps providing similar functionality usually have a complicated workflow.

“From the Blink team’s perspective, Blink is a vehicle for getting the latest and greatest Microsoft Research computer-vision technology out to people. We will continue to invest in creating Blink-like apps that enrich people’s lives.”

Of course, Blink continues to offer the sorts of functionalities that have given its million-plus users an experience that is downright addictive. It captures a burst of images, before you even press the shutter, and the image capturing continues after the shot is taken. The result is a collection of images that you can review with a few simple finger swipes to select the one that best meets your needs. You also can create a short animation and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Socl.

It’s gratifying, Ramnath says, to be able to witness the popular embrace Blink has received –one that, with this new release, is certain to continue the app’s momentum as it proceeds toward its next million downloads.

“During the course of the one year that Blink has been out, we have received a number of emails and comments from people on how much they enjoy using the app,” he reports. “The comments range from future feature requests to ‘I bought a Windows Phone for this app!’

“As a developer, there is no warmer feeling than this, and it is the main reason why we do what we do every day.”