Putting a name to that face…

I caught WALL·E today. I’m a bit of a Pixar fan-boy, but I didn’t particularly enjoy Ratatouille last year (despite rave reviews), which I felt was too simple as far as the story went, so I didn’t particularly expect to enjoy WALL·E too much (again, despite rave reviews). I ended up enjoying it most thoroughly, though. I think I like the unique worlds Pixar creates, and this one (set in a post-apocalyptic future of a sort, where mankind has abandoned Earth due to incredible pollution levels) certainly didn’t disappoint.

I don’t really like blogging movie reviews though (seems like there’re enough reviews on the web as it is), so I decided to talk about the updated Picasa Web Albums instead. Seems like the most recent update has finally added the option of tagging people – in fact, they even do it with face-recognition software! I thought that was pretty impressive, so I decided to give it a spin.

The first few results worked amazingly well, actually. Picasa was able to detect and cluster together similar faces (usually in similar orientations) and that helped to save a lot of time when tagging the pictures. After the first few entries, however, the clustering effect lessened – it seems like Picasa presents the larger clumps first, so after awhile you end up tagging the pictures practically one by one.

Even more amusing were the goof-ups in the face detection system. OK, I guess it’s a little too much to demand that the software be able to tell fake faces from real ones, but Thomas the Tank Engine? Really? Also, Google apparently thinks that Shan is my mother. Hrr hrr.

Errors aside, I’d thought that the face-tagging system would be a great addition to the Picasa software (as a way of quickly searching for photos of specific people on my computer), but apparently there’s no way to get the tag data onto your computer! The face detection is web-only (which might be understandable, maybe it’s too huge or requires too much processing power), but surely it can’t be too hard to enable the Picasa software to load your tag data from the web? Well, apparently it is!

The tag data is currently private by default (meaning only you get to see the tags), which is good for privacy but pretty bad for showcasing your albums. The other option is to set them to public – for all to see. It seems like there’s no middle ground, like allowing only your contacts (or at least the tagged individual) be able to see it (assuming they’re logged into their Google account), which would at least give tagging an extra function. It’ll be great if they could somehow link the tag data to the Gmail/GTalk account too, or at the very least – know if other people have tagged you in their photos!

In my opinion, Facebook’s social-based photo tagging still beats Picasa Web Album’s (hands down!) right now. Fun as it is to play with, Picasa’s tagging system really needs some improvement before it actually becomes a useful tool.


Posted on September 4, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. woo, I tried the new service. It managed to found 1k+ faces…

    I had this idea before, that have embedded face recognition software on mobile phone or digital cams (as a suggestion to my supervisor before he went to Samsung convention), but now they have at least done it on web servers! Should have patented the idea…

    I am still impressed by the software… to see it from the phd papers to real life application!

  2. Hohoho…*in darth vaderish voice* I am your mah-dar!
    Which is quite funny, but also a very, very strange thought. Eeks! You liked Wall.E too? :)

    • “No. No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!” (Skywalker, 1980)WALL·E was fantastic. I take it you’ve caught it already? I preferred it to Cars or Ratatouille, making it the best Pixar film in recent years (for me)…

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