HP Labs Debuts autogreetingcard.com

Innovative web-based service gives you a new way to create and print unique, customized greetings cards

Just in time for the holidays, HP Labs has launched autogreetingcard.com.

For HP researchers, it’s 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 the rest of us, it’s a chance to create unique, personalized holiday greeting cards via a service that’s both simple to use and pretty much guaranteed to always produce great-looking results.

Two things in particular make autogreetingcard.com stand out. “It’s what we call both content-aware and design-aware,” says Qian Lin, director of HP’s Multimedia Interaction and Understanding Lab.

Your Family Front and Center

Unlike other digital greeting card services, Lin explains, autogreetingcard.com is smart enough to spot the faces in every picture you want featured on your card.

Give it six pictures of mom, dad and the kids from which to make a 4x8 inch 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 prioritize images in which faces are the sharpest and largest in the frame.

The result is pretty much guaranteed to look great. But if there’s a blurred-but-cute picture of your daughter you’d prefer to feature – or a seasonal view of your home, perhaps, with no figures in it – it takes just a mouse click to trade either of them for one of the automatically-chosen five.

“Early on in our research, we realized that when it comes to content, faces are more important for cards than they are in other media such as books,” says 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.”

“Smart” Backgrounds

This holiday season autogreetingcard.com 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 for the change, both adjusting the size of the remaining pictures and adding or deleting background elements at the same time. This “design-aware” intelligence means the pictures, background and whatever text is added to the card will always appear well-balanced.

That’s a huge improvement over conventional digital greeting card services, says Willis. They typically use simple template formats that both limit the number of pictures it’s 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,” Willis adds. “It makes the whole experience much faster and easier and means that your card always looks good.”

Print at Home

Autogreetingcard.com 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.

“Totally automated, smart card making is all about making the greeting card more personal,” says lab director Qian Lin. “We’re really excited to be doing that at HP Labs, while at the same time developing new digital layout technologies that – down the line – we’ll take and apply back to more complex media like books.”