App

This clever app may just blow your mind

Famed sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Well, we think he would have liked Spectrum. The surprising accuracy with which it adds color to old photographs will leave you wondering if the whole thing is some kind of voodoo, and how many black cats were sacrificed to power this dark magic.

Of course, it’s actually powered by neural networks that use advanced machine learning to process and understand the content of images – but let’s face it, to the average person those buzzwords are almost meaningless. Better to believe in fairy tales.

How does it know which colors to use?!

If you’ve got some old photo albums lying around, Spectrum is great fun and could kickstart a real nostalgia trip. You simply feed in a black and white photo and get back something in full color. Somehow, the app knows what color things should be and does a good job of making it so. It’s not perfect, and some efforts fall shy of the mark, but we were really impressed by the app’s smarts. Twinned with Google Photoscan (also free) you could digitize and colorize all those dusty snaps from the attic.

So what’s the downside, here? Well, Spectrum isn’t cheap – in its early days, the app was a one-off $20/£20 purchase. Now it’s a recurring $7.49/£7.49 per week subscription. That’s a lot of money, and we can’t say it’s worth it in the long term.

But most users aren’t going to be colorizing photos on a long term weekly basis. Chances are, you’ll play around with as many old snaps as you can find in a short period and then never touch it again. So long as you remember to cancel it, we think paying for a single week is worth the price of entry if you have a batch of photos you want to spruce up with color – and there’s even a three-day trial available for you penny-pinchers out there. Cancel within the trial and you won’t have to pay at all.

Spectrum really is a little slice of magic, and certainly worth investigating if you have old photos lying around.

Download Spectrum