Visual 1st continues discussions on generative AI and new markets

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The 11th annual Visual 1st conference was held Oct. 24-25, at the Governor’s Residence at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, Calif. The high-tech executive-level conference featured numerous sessions expanding on last year’s Generative AI themes, with conference organizers Hans Hartman and Alexis Gerard bringing together a wide variety of companies from across the imaging ecosystem, from startups to established players with hundred-year histories.

John Fisher of Google Photos (center) discusses the challenges and opportunities of a service with 1.5 billion active users a month.

The conference featured “fireside” chats with industry executives. One of the most interesting was “Google Photos – The Challenge of ‘Anything is Possible'” with John Fisher, senior director of engineering, at Google Photos.

Fisher discussed the challenges of maintaining a wildly popular service – the Google Photos platform has 1.4 billion active users a month – while still meeting business objectives. Unlike other Google properties, Google Photos is not monetized through ads. The service relies on purchasers of its Google One storage service and, to a smaller extent, print product purchases.

“Our growth engine is our cloud storage,” said Fisher “We believe,  similar to cellular data plans being a ubiquitous kind of user needs now, we feel like cloud storage can be a similar need. Memories are just so core to how people operate that we people will purchase storage plans in line with how people purchase cellular data plans.”

The service also has API integrations that further extend the reach of Google Photos.

At the panel entitled, “What’s Next for the Photo Print Market – Today’s Consumers are digital, online, and do video. Now what”?, a collection of executives from various parts of the market. One of the panelists, Bill Testa of Frintz, which is a free print service monetized by direct-maketing style advertising, noted the main Frintz offering will help small businesses reach local customers.

Andrew Laffoon, founder of Mixbook, noted today’s younger print consumers are not as driven by the preservation of memories as later generations. Gen Z is motivated by creativity, which is why the latest versions of the Mixbook app offer vast creative tools. The challenge, according to Laffoon, is finding the right balance between the number of possible creative tools and ease of use.

“That’s where AI generative comes in,”  says Laffoon. “You do have unlimited creativity, but AI uses things like search recommendations, coming up with content, where you’re presenting only the most relevant content. If you use our app, you’re gonna see throughout the entire experience, the content that’s being shown is going to be the content that’s relevant to what you’re doing.”

Visual 1st also presents several awards, derived from the 28 Show-and-Tell presenters and judged by independent experts. The 2023 winners are:

Best of Show: LibAI Lab

Robert Blumberg and Trista Taylor

“Lib AI has a clear business focus on interior design and architecture, and they demonstrated both verticals,” says judge Robert Blumberg, Managing Director, Soquel Group. “They also combined in the application several technologies, including variations, fusing of images, lighting, integration with backgrounds. Lib AI incorporates many technologies, it’s not a one-trick pony.

“On the business side it was obvious who were the users, who were the customers, and it addressed well-defined business verticals.

“Finally, the Lib AI demo was excellent; it showed many features and abilities – all in 4 minutes!”

Best Technology: BRIA

The generative AI field is growing rapidly, yet the rights of the artists whose work the AI is built upon are often neglected. BRIA’s technology and models exclusively incorporate licensed content,” says judge Sami Niemi, Partner at Spintop Ventures. “Moreover, its innovative licensing and attribution framework ensures that the original artists receive their rightful compensation. The rapidly expanding field of generative AI requires both technological and business model breakthroughs to ensure fairness and benefit for all.”

Best Business Potential: Zenfolio

Anna Dickson and Katie Glymin, Zenfolio

“We chose Zenfolio because we felt that they are looking at how they can use AI to make their existing customers’ lives easier. This company is now using AI to create customized portfolio websites, which will allow their customers more time to focus on other aspects of their business such as growth and marketing,” says Anna Dickson, Group Product Manager, Google. “This will not only help to move their customers’ business forward, but also their own business, opening up new areas of opportunity. We believe there are several opportunities for Zenfolio to grow this application in the future and this is just the start to using AI for their clients in an interesting way.”

Special Recognition: Projector

“There was a lot of agreement among us that Projector has done something truly interesting,” says judge Andy Kelm, Managing Director at Palmarés Advisors “We loved their insight on why video sharing is so challenging, and seeing their solution that combines simple packaging with a focus on consumer value to make home videos as accessible as Netflix.”

Andy Kelm and Robert Marks, Projector








Award winner photos courtesy of Mikaal Aaland and Visual 1st.

Following are some snaps from the Dead Pixels Society meetup at Equator Coffees before the conference:

Below is our annual video report from the conference, where Chris Garcia, Jordan Moore, Harvis Kremer, and Andrew Laffoon provide their insights into the trends revealed at the event: