Website puts you in the picture

Researchers at HP Labs have developed a website as a test bed for learning more about the complex challenge of automatically placing pictures, background designs and text on a ‘page’ of any given size.

For users of the site, it is a chance to create unique greeting cards.

Qian Lin, director of HP’s Multimedia Interaction and Understanding Laboratory said that, unlike other digital greeting card services, is smart enough to spot the faces in every picture the user wants featured on a card.

Give it six pictures of mum, dad and the children from which to make a 4in x 8in holiday collage, for example, and it will find the faces in each constituent image and at the same time crop their backgrounds, ensuring that each small picture still looks good.

Give it 50 pictures from which to choose the five best and it will prioritise images in which faces are the sharpest and largest in the frame.

‘Early on in our research, we realised that when it comes to content, faces are more important for cards than they are in other media, such as books,’ said Chris Willis, a researcher on the autogreetingcard team. ‘The whole beauty of what we’re doing here is that it lets you focus on what’s important – and that’s your family.’ offers users a choice of 27 different ‘smart’ card backgrounds, built around three core style formats featuring stars, ornaments and picture frames.

Add or delete any of the component images on a card and the design instantly accommodates the change, both adjusting the size of the remaining pictures and adding or deleting background elements at the same time. This means the pictures, background and whatever text is added to the card will always appear well balanced.

That is a huge improvement over conventional digital greeting card services, said Willis. They typically use simple template formats that both limit the number of pictures it is possible to feature on a card and require their users to go back through several steps to make any sort of change.

‘Here you can opt for a new design with a single click and the service will accommodate that choice on the fly,’ added Willis. ‘It makes the whole experience much faster and easier and means that your card always looks good.’ is designed for home printing and creates cards for most standard photo paper formats. The web-based service can be used without creating an online account, although registered users can save their designs and share them with others.