Prisma, the wildly-popular photo manipulation application, uses neural networks to regenerate users’ otherwise banal photos into the styles of famous artists and paintings. However, using the application has, until now, come with a bit of a catch. Making photos with Prisma has required internet access, requiring the application to uploads one’s photos and then download them in their new, artistic format.

Prisma App
Image source: iTunes

Prisma now processing photos offline

The quality and variety of filter offered by the application is quite impressive, keeping in mind the server-side machine learning aspect that made these filters possible. Prima’s popularity, however, was often too much for these servers and, in turn, resulted in slow filter previews. Not anymore, says Prisma Labs, which today announced that the iOS version of the application now allows users to edit photos offline by running neural networks on your smartphone.

This update is important for a few reasons. Most obviously, photos now process much more quickly, as they don’t require an internet connection and don’t have to be uploaded to and downloaded from the Prisma cloud. From now on, user’s do not have to worry about server outages. Overall, photo processing should take about 2-3 seconds faster to process on iOS.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is now the update allows users with low data plans or those in locations with poor signal a chance to use the application without any issues.

The servers that were once dedicated to processing photos are now primarily being used to process videos. This appropriation is necessary as video processing is much more intensive, since there are multiple frames per second of footage.

“Now that we’ve implemented neural networks right into the smartphones,” says the Moscow-based team behind Prisma, “we have enough server capacity to run full videos on them in the near future.”

Prisma to continue developing neural networks

This move is all part of a larger strategy to make Prisma faster and to create more applications, bots, and services powered by neural networks. “Neural networks work great with sound and voice also, but we need to focus on what we have first,” says Aleksey Moiseyenkov, Prima’s cofounder and chief executive.

Additionally, Prisma says the application can now be used as a benchmark for smartphone speed. How this will work remains unclear, however. “Moiseyenkov said that the app will “probably add a special mode…in the near future,” without disclosing any further details.

If you haven’t yet used Prima, it functions a lot like Instagram, without the social network component. Users only have to upload or take a photo, and the free application will transform your photo into artwork in the style of many famous artists and masterpieces. For example, you can make your photo into the style of Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave, or turn your selfie into something that resembles Edvard Much’s The Scream. Half of the application’s filters will now be available offline.

The company also announced its first philanthropic filter, as it has partnered with Elbi, an application that helps charities and organizations crowdfund. When a Prisma user modifies a photo with the “Love” filter they will be given the option to donate $1 to charity.

At the time of writing, 52 million people have installed Prisma and 4 million use it daily, according to the company. Just like Snapchat, Prisma plans to monetize the application via brand filters, which will allow them to keep the application free for users.