Microsoft is rolling out a new set of features for “Socl,” the social network from its Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, saying it wants to give users new ways to express themselves by collecting, combining and putting their own spin on photos and videos.
The tools include PicoTale (pictured above) which lets people create Cheezburger-style captioned images by first entering the text of their caption. The tool then finds images related to the text and automatically places the caption on the picture.
Microsoft is also releasing a new version of its Blink app for Windows Phone that integrates with Socl and lets people create a flipbook of pictures from a series of static images.
In addition, the company says a new Blink Cliplets app for Windows 8 will let users overlay moving animations on top of static images for a unique effect. Here’s a Microsoft video outlining the new tools and enhancements to existing Socl features.
Socl, which was publicly unveiled in 2011 as a research project, has evolved into a “social network of creators,” as explained by members of Microsoft’s FUSE team. Lili Cheng, the FUSE general manager, says Socl now has approximately 400,000 users. Over time, the insights from Socl are expected to be used to improve Microsoft’s products.
The idea is to “make an amazing online community where people can be expressive and inspire one another,” said Cheng.
The group says it isn’t aiming to replace existing social networks, but instead supplement them. Socl users are able to share the content they create to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, for example.
“We think of Socl as very complementary” to other social networks, said Colleen Estrada, director of experience design at Microsoft Research, who works on Socl. In addition to serving as its own social network, she said, it’s “a really nice authoring tool for Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook.”
Socl is available here.