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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Face.com Brings Facial Recognition To Facebook Photos

Photo Finder facial recognition app for Facebook


One of the more common questions regularly asked by ScanMyPhotos.com customers is about how to organize your generations of family photos after it has been digitized. While it is super easy to batch and categorize the photos in groups and rename the files to better identify the subjects in each photo, here is another recommendation. Facebook.com provides a new application tool for recognizing the subject within a photo; this means that, for example, the pictures of your relatives can be identified and sorted electronically. As we digitize millions of phortos, this is an importabnt tool for helping to unclutter and better orgainze your photo images.
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Here is more info from a recent TechCrunch.com article:


If there is one feature on Facebook which delivers “social utility” magic even to the most average of users, it’s Photos. In fact the feature is so popular that by Facebook’s own account 1 billion photos are uploaded every month—a staggering number that makes it the largest photo site on the Web. However, as with all good things, there are also drawbacks, and in this case discovery is high on the list. While Facebook makes it super easy to discover photos in which you were tagged, there is no chance that every one of those billion photos are tagged each month. And that leaves a big opportunity.

Let me put it another way: How many photos of you are there on Facebook that you’re completely unaware of? Israeli-based Face.com will help you find them with ‘Photo Finder,’ a Facebook app that uses facial recognition to help members locate untagged photos of themselves and their friends. We have 200 special access invites available to TechCrunch readers who will be granted first access to the app, as well as preference on the waiting list.

Get your invite here.

Once installed, the app will begin scanning you and your friends’ photo albums, a process that requires a bit of time to complete, but the welcome screen will immediately display photos that were ‘Auto Tagged’. Users can either accept, decline or identify the correct individual themselves. The only users
that have veto power to alter or decline a tag are the person who uploaded the photo and the person tagged.

Facial recognition technology is taking off. Competing technology can be found in both Apple’s iPhoto and Google’s Picasa, but those are limited to searching only your personal collection of photos (although iPhoto lets you upload them with the tags to Facebook). With Photo Finder, you are not limited to your own photo collection. Users can search manually for photos of friends or browse for recently tagged ones. Users can also track specific users by flagging them for the “Watch List”. Photo Finder will prompt hits via Facebook’s ‘Notification’ window.

The facial recognition technology was developed from scratch by the Face.com team over a year and half. It was designed from the ground up as a low-cost platform to meet two specific requirements: The first is recognition of “Faces in the Wild”. This applies to everyday photos that suffer from such issues as low resolution or bad lighting, or where faces are obscured with sunglasses, for example. The second requirement is to have the technology be scalable. In this respect Face.com claims to be able to perform facial recognition on all one billion photos currently uploaded into Facebook every single month using only a few machines.

Photo Finder scans the photos of users and all their friends, along with “other albums in your wider network where there’s a high likelihood of your (or friends’) appearances.” To understand the sheer volume of backend work required, consider the following statistics: The first 150 users in Face.com’s system required 20 million photos to be scanned, resulting in 30,000 identified faces. My personal installation of the app required it to scan 79,449 photos which resulted in 11,933 tags of myself and my friends. Photo Finder will then go back and re-scan the albums after its initial scan to identify newly added photos.

The social tagging feature within Facebook Photos gives Face.com a major boost because it can use those tags to train its system. It is important to note that Photo Finder does not add or alter acebook’s own photo tags. Tagging that occurs through the app is stored in metadata accessible through the Photo Finder app alone. Also noteworthy is the fact that from a privacy perspective Photo Finder piggy-backs on the users’ Facebook settings and does not alter them in any way. Also, none of the photos are stored on Face.com’s servers. These only perform the heavy lifting required for the facial recognition and the storing of tags added through the app.

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