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The big picture: Samsung is addressing head-on concerns that are wider than just new features for a smartphone. Generative AI needs to be regulated, according to the company's head of customer experience, Patrick Chomet, and governments are right to be concerned about its capabilities.
At this year's first Unpacked event, Samsung showed off a series of AI-powered software capabilities it collectively calls Galaxy AI that it has integrated into the new Galaxy S24 series of phones.
One of these features is called Generative Edit and its functionality is raising concerns about how easy and seamless it can be to artificially rearrange an image to create the perfect picture – or photographic masterpieces, as Samsung calls them. The Galaxy AI editing tool allows for – again to use Samsung's words – simple edits. These include erasing, recomposing, and remastering. All the user has to do is take a great pic and then Generative Edit makes it better, Samsung says.
Perhaps the ease at which Generative Edit works has tapped into greater angst about Generative AI and the questions surrounding the authenticity and ethics of what it seemingly so easily produces, including photography. Certainly, photo editing tools have been staples on smartphones for many years now and it is a category at which Samsung excels. Also, the feature makes a watermark and metadata changes whenever a photo has been edited with the tool – and Samsung says it is working with regulatory bodies to make sure people understand what this means. But whatever spurred this latest line of criticism, Samsung felt compelled to answer it. The bottom-line response: Generative Edit is ethical, desirable and even necessary.
That is the message that Samsung's head of customer experience, Patrick Chomet gave to TechRadar, calling the Galaxy S24's Generative Edit feature a natural extension of what smartphones can already do. He says that consumers have two, sometimes competing, desires when taking a photo. One is wanting to capture the moment – that is, to take a picture that's as accurate and complete as possible. The other is wanting to make something new. Generative Edit helps with both, he says.
He also waxes philosophical in his interview, noting that there is no such thing as a real picture. "As soon as you have sensors to capture something, you reproduce [what you're seeing], and it doesn't mean anything. There is no real picture. You can try to define a real picture by saying, 'I took that picture', but if you used AI to optimize the zoom, the autofocus, the scene – is it real? Or is it all filters?"
Such notions, though, are not likely to fly with regulators and Chomet appears to be aware of that. He said that Samsung has aligned itself with European regulations on AI and says that not only are governments right to be concerned about the potential implications of widespread AI use but that the industry needs to be regulated. He says that Samsung is actively working on that but provided little details.
Of course, it's still early days for Samsung's new Galaxy phones with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, Galaxy S24+ and Galaxy S24 only just now available for purchase. Generative Edit could wind up in the category of advanced filter – another tool to help average smartphone users take fantastic photos. Or it could fall into the category of deepfakes. Chomet doesn't seem to know which way the wind could blow. "Our new technology is amazing and powerful – but like anything, it can be used in good and bad ways."