Monday, August 31, 2009

Face Recognition

In a recent piece, I suggested, given the rise of face recognition software being used in applications like Apple's iPhoto and web-based photo services like Google's Picasa, that we as a society were on the verge of a major breakthrough. In the very near future, we might be able to locate pictures of ourselves in the vacation photos of complete strangers.

You might think, "Well, whoopee - what's so cool about that?" You'll have plenty of time to ponder that question because, after my recent experiences, I think we're a very long way yet from any global face recognition breakthrough.

My new laptop came with the latest version of iPhoto and I was able to really play with the face recognition function for the first time. At first I was impressed: when you go to a picture with a face on it and click "Name," iPhoto was quickly able to pick out the faces in the picture:

iPhoto was easily able to find my face in this photo

After that, all you have to do is label the faces it picks out and then iPhoto is supposed to go through your library and pick out other occurrences of this face - sounds simple enough. Knowing ahead of time that face recognition technology is far from perfected, I expected some level of error. Sadly, iPhoto's ability to (a) locate faces, and then (b) identify them based on a set of manually labeled pictures, doesn't quite live up to even my already lowered expectations and it comes up with astonishing amounts of false positives. On the plus side, these misidentifications proved incredibly amusing. Essentially everyone I know, male or female, young or old, bearded or clean-shaven, was identified as possibly being me - but it didn't stop there: I was numerous faceless inanimate objects as well.

Here are some of the best things that were tagged as me or Maggie in my photo library:

  • A pork pie with sliced pears
  • A fake aquarium plant
  • A baby in a bear suit
  • A clump of dirt
  • A yeoman warder
  • Sir Walter Raleigh
  • A spooky doll
  • A goose
  • Sir Joseph Banks
  • A cluster of tomatoes
  • A gelato spoon
  • A Malaysian curry
  • A bagel
  • Scary clown head
  • A chanterelle mushroom
  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • A pizza
  • A snowball
  • A handrail
  • A solid black square
  • Grandpa Leo's birthday hula dancer
  • A spatula

  • Statue of Ron Howard
  • Cardboard cutout of Elvis
  • A granite counter tile
  • A Parisian living statue
  • Rear end of a pig
  • A frosty mug of root beer
  • A penguin
  • A snowy mountain
  • St. Francis of Assisi
  • The Eiffel Tower
  • Barrack Obama
  • This creepy mannequin
  • A camel
  • Lettuce
  • A "No Left Turn" sign
  • A carnivorous plant
  • A bus tire
  • Her own knee
  • Indian man with large scarf
Not Maggie

To be fair, iPhoto did get a lot of photos correct. However, given that a rather large percentage of my photos have either me or Maggie in them, I'm not sure it did significantly better than random. Oh well, I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer for the ability to find out-of-focus pictures of myself accidentally ruining someone else's travel photo.


Doug said...

lol, great post. some of those mis-tags were hilarious. Curse Sir Walter Raleigh, he's such a stupid get!

Maybe iPhoto looks beyond the surface and actually peers into your soul. There could be some subconscious correlation between you and a baby in a bear suit and maggie and ron howard

Andy Murdock said...

Especially Maggie and Ron Howard - I'd always thought there was a connection there.

An American in London said...

Well, you don't think the mannequin looks even a *little bit* like Maggie? j/k. But you can't argue with the similarity between you and the GG Bridge.

Furzmeisterin said...

Yes! The rancid Indian fish with the pierced nose!