Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Face Recognition with Picasa

Picasa has this really eery technology called "Name Tags". It can go through your photos and find images of people who look similar. Finding a face in a photo must be a complex task from the point of view of a computer. While it may be obvious to a human eye, everything is just pixels from the point of view of a computer. So determining facial features must be a daunting task. But not only can it detect faces well, it can also figure out which faces look "similar". Then it allows the user to define a name tag to associate with that face.

Above is a screenshoot of Picasa finding several photos of Caitlin in my differenet web albums. Of course, it would be impossible to find her face in all photos from birth to 5 years old, but what it did find automatically was still pretty impressive. You still have to manually correct some of the choices, but it sure beats doing this manually one photo at a time.
It leads one to wonder what such a Big Brother-like technology can do. Can you use it to recognize a person within a crowd in real-time? I'm sure the US Dept. of Homeland Security or CIA would want to have such a technology that can do real-time scanning for suspected terrorists in high-density areas like airports, train stations, and so on.

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