Picasa face-recognition scan conclusions

Picasa face recognitionI have posted previously about letting Picasa 3 scan for faces so I can identify them. I had hoped to publish the results at the time but I was caught up with other things and didn’t get a chance.

Unfortunately I don’t have an accurate record of how long it took. I started it on about the 1st October with 14,000 photos to process. On the 4th it was 50% completed after I had added an additional 5000 photos because I added some of the folders under Documents. On the 5th it was saying all day that it had 51% to go. Then that evening it changed to 52%. I thought it was going to take another week, but the next day it was finished.

That’s 5-6 days. For 19,000 photos.

It ran for 24 hours a day, and I only closed it down occasionally when it was slowing down what I was doing. It used an average of 45% of my CPU, so sometimes this was a problem. I don’t remember the processor that my laptop has, but it’s a bit over 2 years old.

Of course, not all of these photos have people in them – there are landscapes, wildlife, and images of documents.

Some things I have noticed:

  • if I sign in to Google it can get the names from my contacts list
  • it runs very slowly at other times and quite quickly at others
  • it picks up faces from the covers of books and photos on the wall behind the real people
  • it can find faces in very fuzzy pictures
  • it is not bothered by hats and sunglasses
  • it quite often suggests the wrong person but that person is closely related, such as a sister, aunt or grandmother
  • it identifies people more accurately the more photos you have identified
  • it can identify people at all ages in their lives
  • it is better at identifying babies than I am
  • it doesn’t recognise cats, dogs or gorillas, although it did identify one front-on picture of a dog
  • I have a lot of duplicate photos, and when I identify one it suggests the same name for the others very quickly
  • I am terrible at remembering names
  • I nearly have more photos of my nieces than I have of my husband or myself

By the time it finished it said it still had about 6500 faces to identify. I am slowly whittling those down. I now have just over 5000. There are also the faces it can’t identify as faces, which I have to do manually if I want it done at all.

It seems to have trouble with faces if they are:

  • at an angle
  • have hair over one side
  • side-on unless they are completely from the side
  • really, really fuzzy

And yet sometimes it sees a face where there isn’t one. I thought this one must be in the background somewhere.

Panda face

He looks like he has a little beard and a receding hairline.

This is the photo it came from:

Picasa panda

Can you see the face, in the top right corner? Not a face at all!

It also picks up the hundreds of faces in the backgrounds of photos and wants to know who they are. You can mark each one as ignored, and you can see these later if you want to. When the Sydney Harbour Bridge was 75 years old they opened it to the public to walk across, and the photos from that day have many people in the background. Fortunately they are mostly wearing lime green hats so I could quickly exclude them when I saw them.

All the people in a wedding photo can be identified if you have already identified them elsewhere. Even if you don’t know their names you can give them a number, like Wedding 12, and group photos of the same person together. You can then more easily identify the person, or a relative can, when you can see a number of photos of the same person together.

I have had a wonderful time with Picasa, and I still am. I am finally learning, through having to identify photos, which of my grandmother’s three sisters is which, and what my mother’s older brothers looked like when they were young.

I have also very much enjoyed seeing pictures of the same person throughout their lives all in the one place. Here are some of my grandmother Amy Eason nee Stewart:

Amy Millicent Eason nee Stewart

You can see her from the earliest photo of her that I have, when she was a baby; as a teenager, a young mother, and so on all through her life. The photos are of varying quality but the only one I had to manually identify was the blurry side-on one in the 3rd row.

A valuable lesson I learned was in trying to identify what it is that makes this person look like that person. What is it in my face that Picasa mistakes for my grandmother’s? Or two of three nieces but not the third?

To be fair, sometimes Picasa is totally wrong. It tried to tell me that this same grandmother was in a shot of my husband posing with the Wests Tigers rugby league team. It wasn’t. When it ‘groups’ unnamed faces it tends to put faces together that are shot at the same angle. Sometimes I think it is suggesting names based on the frequency with which that name appears, or on the previously identified name, but that might just be my cynicism.

All in all I am so glad I went through this exercise. Identifying faces has become my procrastination-of-choice, and it has made me much more likely to name the faces of photos I have just taken rather than leave it for years when I can no longer remember the names. I am also determined to research the names I should know but can’t remember – school classmates, fellow safari tourists, even Wests Tigers. All those unnamed faces bother me!

When is a substandard photo a great photo?

I’ve recently updated my Facebook photo from the Christmas version to my normal one. The normal one is taken from an unusual angle, and it’s a bit fuzzy. I love it, though, because of the photographer and the circumstances in which it was taken.

My niece turned 13 early last year, and for her birthday her parents had approved a mobile phone. This is no ordinary 13-year-old – she looks after her things amid the chaos of living in a small house full of teenage girls. So the day this photo was taken I took her shopping to buy her the Aunty Carole present,  and we looked for her mobile at the same time.

In the end the mobile she wanted was more expensive than her parents had approved, but with my contribution would work out. We called her Dad, he said yes, and we bought the phone and went home with it.

The battery had a bit of charge, and she started playing with the camera. She took this photo of me as I was leaving – the car keys are in my hand.

So every time I see this photo it reminds me of her, and what a good day we had that day. It’s not a great photo as a portrait of me, but I love it. She’s taller than me, as you can see.

Memories

So it’s the memories associated with the photo that make it special. I used to find this when I would edit the enormous numbers of prints from an overseas holiday. We used to go to exotic places with wildlife (and we will again one day), and we’d come home with dozens of rolls of film. When the photos were developed I’d sort through them and choose the best to put in an album. [This is like a history lesson, we don’t do this any more!]

Sometimes it was hard to choose the right photo, because the memories attached to the photo outweighed the objective interest of the photo itself. The first lion we spotted in Africa resulted in a photo of a small blob in a large expanse of yellow grass, which could just as easily have been a bush. Anyone looking at the photo would not give it a second glance, but for me it brings back the excitement of the day, with everyone leaning out that side of the truck trying to decide what it was, and realising it was a lion! The first iceberg on the way to the Antarctic peninsula is equally unspectacular. So the photos are in the albums even though they mean nothing, and may be uninterpretable, to anyone else.

Family history

Perhaps this is a by-product of the Camera Age, where we all take way too many photos and keep them all. Or the Tourist Age. I was recently subjected to the digital photos of a nephew’s trip to Egypt, all 1050 of them. Overseas trips are particularly susceptible to this. After I had chosen the photos and put them in the album I would check with my husband to see if I’d left any out that he has particular memories of – a shot re remembers trying to take of a leopard, or whatever, that had no significance for me.

Looking through old family albums, then, may not be the time-consuming process it is for more recent ones, but the same principle applies. Before you flick past to the next page, looking for a face you recognise, think about the photo you are looking at.

Why that building? Or that tree? What could it’s significance have been? Who took it? Is the format different from all the others, an indication that someone else’s camera was involved?  Do the same people, or buildings, or even trees, keep turning up? Is it just a blob in the grass?