At its 2018 I/O developer conference Google presented a number of improvements to its Photos app, but there was no talk about an exciting feature that was demoed the previous year: an object removal tool that automatically removes obstructions like fences, window panes from your photos.
The feature caused quite a buzz when it was demoed in early 2017, and people have been waiting on it ever since... so why has it disappeared? The answer is simpler than you might think. According to an interview with the Google Photos team on XDA, object removal was simply de-prioritized in the development queue, giving way to other AI-powered features in Google Lens.
In the interview, Google team members said that the technology exists and could be deployed, but that Google prioritizes products based on what is most important for people, and other machine learning applications were prioritized over object removal. This means the technology might eventually be implemented into Google Photos or another Google app if the company changes its mind (and development queue), but we probably should not hold our breath.
When it was first demoed, object removal looked impressive and exceedingly useful. As you can see in the video above, the feature was shown as 100 percent automatic, without the need for any manual editing. Sure, professional photographers might want a bit more control over their cloning, but the vast majority of Google Photos users probably don't know what the Clone Stamp tool or Content Aware Fill even is.
If you've been waiting for object removal to finally make an appearance on your smartphone, knowing the source code is still stored on some hard drive at Google HQ might not be much of a consolation... but least we know the reason why it has never been released.