A few months ago, I downloaded an update to Picasa, Google’s photo organization tool. The update included the ability to let the system use facial recognition technology.
I spent about an hour going through my photos and pairing names with facing. The system is relatively easy to use and user friendly (i.e. my mom could probably figure it out). Picasa, based upon the name/face pairing, began scanning the rest of my album for matches. It found many but I had to close the program.
I just returned from an amazing vacation — San Fran, road trip from Calgary to Vancouver stopping at five of the best ski areas in NA (Banff – Sunshine & Lake Louise, Kicking Horse, Revelstoke (most vertical in NA), and Whistler), then opening ceremonies of the Olympics and Cancun for a wedding. As one might imagine, I took a lot of photos.
I plugged in my camera and turned on Picasa and WHOA — at some point (when I assume the program was running), Picasa had identified nearly 300 more pictures of me and multiple ones of other folks. I was impressed, very impressed but a little bit scared (plus it was fun to see where the program became confused — apparently (and not shockingly) my brother and I look similar as do me and my friend Jay.
If Picasa, free desktop program, with a little “teaching” from me, can identify me in hundreds of pictures with different backgrounds, lighting, and poses, imagine what security companies using more powerful technology and computers can do. I don’t say this because I am scared or terribly bothered by the prospect (so long as it is used in a responsible manner to keep us safe) or that this is really news. My main point is this — Picasa’s facial recognition technology was impressive and really brought home, right here to my desk, the power of computers and constantly improving technology (Moore’s law…).
From a product perspective, this is just one more reason for me to migrate away from my native Mac Apps such as iPhoto and iTunes in favor of free software (via download or cloud). I already like Picasa much more than iPhoto and it constantly has news features added for free. The latest version of iPhoto also has facial recognition technology but I would have to pay for the update (specifically $80 to Apple here). Why pay when I have a better, free (and constantly updated) alternative? Same goes with iTunes (I’ll save a rant for later) but simply put — iTunes is slow and bloated. Pandora and the slew of free alternatives is better, cheaper, portable (i.e. via the Cloud and an Internet connection) and does not tie me to a platform/program.