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User Experience

Face Recognition Brought to Life in Picasa Web

On 17, Sep 2008 | No Comments | In User Experience | By Ryan Feeley

I was simultaneously thrilled and creeped out when I logged into Google’s Picasa Web recently and noticed it can recognize and group together faces. Curious, I turned it on and waited about 10 minutes for it to index a thousand or so of my photos. The first page of results was astonishing — about 20 or so faces of Julia were identified as being the same person and grouped together. The next few groups also contained only photos of Julia, including a group of her in her new glasses. In the entire batch there were hundreds of faces, and only a handful of different people grouped together, or that just were not faces at all (A.K.A. false positives).

I had to take the first step of associating my contacts with the faces before it could tell me who was in the photos. That was the big brothery step because it provides Google, and anyone in the future with access to that data, the ability identify my contacts in any photos Google indexes.

It is remarkably accurate and even spotted a space on the gravestone of an ancestor of mine.

It brings up interesting questions about the access to these fingerprints. EXIF data contains exact time, geotags contain exact location, and now these fingerprints can identify people. Will advertisers be able to leverage this data? Will Google allow for public access to these fingerprints? (e.g. who is in this photo) Will Google themselves be enhancing their already massive profiles of their users with this new information?

Now that “when”, “where” and “who” are no longer relevant questions, what’s next? “What”, “why” and “how”?

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