Microsoft’s new app can bring your toy car collection online

Thinga.Me is a project from the Microsoft Garage that helps digitally catalog physical objects

One of the tough things about having an awesome collection of physical objects is that it can be difficult to share them with people far away. After all, what good is having a collection of dolls action figures taking over your house if you can't foist them on someone halfway across the globe?

That's a problem that Microsoft Research Cambridge is trying to solve with the private beta of a new iOS app called Thinga.Me. It's an app that lets users clip objects out of digital photos and then arrange them on virtual shelves for easy sharing online. 

The company has a few examples of how it works already, showing off different collections of figurines, family photos, bottles of beers and pottery on the Thinga.Me website. It's all powered by computer vision technology that Microsoft Research has built to separate individual objects from the background of photos called GrabCut.

By using GrabCut, people can take a photo of whatever they want to save to the app, and it will automatically crop out the background so that it's easy to add objects to a collection. After that, the objects can be laid out in a variety of ways, including on a digital cork board, or a set of virtual shelves. 

According to the team from Microsoft Research Cambridge that's behind the project, it's designed for everyone from hardcore collectors looking to share their mountain of limited edition fountain pen ink with the world to parents who want an easy way to catalog and share their kids' art projects. 

Thinga.Me is the brainchild of Microsoft's Garage internal incubator, which lets employees test out ideas that they have with company resources. Right now the app is in private beta, but interested folks can apply to try it out at (you guessed it) Thinga.Me.

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