Photo and video enhancer Cooliris (download) has launched an updated version of its browser add-on that brings new features including support for viewing local media, file specific metadata, and a Facebook photo viewer that shows user name tags. It's also available--for the first time, to Linux users.
A few weeks ago I met with Shashi Seth, Cooliris' chief revenue officer, and Austin Shoemaker who is the company's CTO to talk about the release, which they say has addressed some of the top requests from their users. The biggest being the capability to view local photos and videos from their computer's hard drive inside of Cooliris' 3D media wall, which users on all three platforms can now do.
This basically turns your browser into an ad-hoc media center, something Shoemaker says has been created to be a unified experience across multiple platforms. For instance, if you're on a Mac, it links up with iPhoto, and if you're on a PC, it organizes your "my pictures" folder by album. Either way, you see your stuff without telling the service where to go to find it.
But what about Web content you ask? It's also been given a boost--literally. The new version has a visual effects engine that take better advantage of users' graphics hardware. For Mac users the tool is using OpenGL, and on Windows it's Direct 3D. Seth says it runs lean enough that most hardware from the last five years or so should have no problems with it. In my brief testing I ran it on a 3- year-old PC with barely a hiccup, however it's noticeably smoother on my other machine with a beefier graphics card.
Additionally, the tool now displays a much broader selection of metadata from selected sites. When viewing photos from Picasa Web Albums and Google Image search, or videos from YouTube, it now shows things like view count, user ratings, exposure, aperture, and resolution. This unfortunately, does not work on for Flickr photos, but I'm told it will be added to a future release, alongside for support for videos in Flickr and Facebook. Speaking of which, this release lets Facebook users view tags and titles of photos--all without leaving the Cooliris interface. There is, however no way to add tags or captions without visiting Facebook proper.
The same metadata treatment has been given to the service's shopping tool, which taps into Amazon.com, letting you view entire product descriptions without visiting the site. In fact, it's a very similar experience to WindowShop, a 3D shopping viewer which Amazon launched back in October.
Out of all these new features though, support for local content is the boldest. It puts Cooliris in closer competition with services like Boxee, in attempting to simplify and improve the way people get at media both online and off. While this version of Cooliris does not yet support Web audio feeds like Boxee does, it seems like the next logical step.
Also, here's a quick video overview of the some of the new things that it can do. There's lots of tiny text, so you might want to check out the HQ or HD version,which can be selected once you hit the play button: