Friday, September 25, 2009

Facing Up To Things

Today I was supposed to post the last of my Family Six Pack mini series. But I never got round to it and it is all the fault of those people at Google. The subject of the last in the family history series was my Auntie Miriam and I knew I had a photograph of her somewhere. I had scanned it many years ago and it was somewhere amongst the two and a half thousand images that are tucked away in files on my hard-drive. I would like to be the kind of person who labels and tags each image when it is added to the collection, but I have never been that organised. The only way to find my errant Aunt was to search through each folder manually and even using the multi-image display format on Picasa, this is still a lengthy undertaking.
As I opened Picasa I noticed that there was a new version now available Picasa 3.5 and I downloaded it to see if there were any major improvements. To my surprise I discovered that there had been a significant development - facial recognition had been added to the programme. This is a magnificent gizmo : you simply identify a face by giving it a name tag and the programme will then search through all your image files and using facial recognition software - doing clever things like measuring the critical distances between eyes, nose and mouth - it will present you with a list of all other images containing the same face. Most it can spot without much doubt but where there is a doubt it will give you the option of either accepting the match or rejecting it.
What is really very clever about the system is its ability to recognise faces over considerable periods of time. Once I identified the GLW in a recent picture of her it managed to rightly match this up with images of her when she was just 17 and 18 years old. It is not a particularly fast system : it has taken about six or seven hours to work its way through my collection of images, but it is quite fascinating to watch it as it works its way through. Occasionally it will do sweet things like matching father with son or mother with daughter which can bring a lump to the throat. And at the end of the day you are presented with a stack of images which - as in the example above - can be a bit overwhelming.
I have spent the day fascinated watching it trawl through my life sorting people out into neat piles. All thoughts of the piece on Auntie Miriam have had to be put off until next week. But when I do get around to writing it up, I will not be short of images to illustrate it with.
If you haven't already got Picasa you can download the programme - free of charge - from the Google website.

15 comments:

  1. That is quite fascinating--did it match your own photos (those of yourself, I mean) with those of any of your relatives?

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  2. I have Picassa on my laptop but not my Mac. Never tried the facial recognition, but I have found it useful for other cataloguing tasks. Technology aking over, but at the same time it's pretty damned useful.

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  3. I have Picassa on my laptop but not my Mac. Never tried the facial recognition, but I have found it useful for other cataloguing tasks. Technology aking over, but at the same time it's pretty damned useful.

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  4. John H : Not for me, but it did with various relatives.
    John : I agree it is rather useful.

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  5. Have't had the time to upgrade my Picasa albums, as yet. But will check this out at first opportunity. Ta much for the heads up, Alan :)

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  6. As someone who has approximately 400 million digital photos stashed in a chaotic mess on a couple of harddrives, I think I should give picassa a go!

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  7. Good to know... I love looking at old photographs- I don't do it too often as I will sit with them for hours and reminisce. It's amazing what emotions can be brought up!

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  8. Perfect for my wonder wall. Can I steal your pic? I don't use Picassa but Blogger automatically sets up an account for you so all the pics you post on the blog drop in which I didn't realise! I'm a Flickr girl myself but I don't think it has face recognition. . very clever!

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  9. Baino : With pleasure.

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  10. Alan--I saw the new version but haven't had a chance to download it. Very cool --I will check it out! c

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  11. I don't use picasa as my major storage site. Photoshop is my thing, but I really like the features for collages and the item you just mentioned. I guess I could download a bunch of photos that I wanted to collage then create on with it. You have given me food for thought. Thanks for sharing it and also you facial collage.

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  12. Very clever indeed !! I never knew of this and am sure to check it out now ! Thank you, I have a TON of old photos. Cheers !

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  13. love the collage. and quite fascinating the feature...a bit scary actually. makes me think sci fi and the ability to find people...but i guess we are just talking pictures. right?

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  14. Facial recognition would be good in my case. I suppose I'd better update the Picasa

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  15. I'm pretty certain the casinos in Vegas use something pretty similar to catch the "card counters."

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