Thursday, September 24, 2009

Picasa: Everyone You Know

I recently updated to Picasa 3.5 because I couldn't wait for the update to be issued. I sat through the "here's what's new" video and it sounded intriguing.  You can upload to or download from your Picasa Web Album; you can place your pictures more easily on a map; and you can tag photos of everyone you know in pictures (attached to your Address Book file with their e-mail and contact info)!

It also sounded insidious. If this were a government plan to get people to identify multiple photos of themselves and their friends and family for federal records, I'm totally walking into a trap.

But I'm assuming it's not a trap, and I'm going along with this and placing name tags on all the faces of anyone who appears in my last ten years of digital photography. It gets a little annoying when I take a picture of a crowd at an event and the program asks me if I know every single person in the crowd.  On the other hand... how freaky would it be if I did? What if I took a picture of a crowd and the program picked out the face of an ex-girlfriend or a long-lost enemy?  What if I found someone who was supposed to have died 20 years ago?  I'm sure some tawdry novelist or film producer has already capitalized upon this.

It's amusing to me to see the program try to pick out my friends' faces. After I tag a dozen pictures, it starts to make educated guesses based on its face-recognition program. For instance, among my friends, it has accurately identified Martin in every single picture he appears in, whether he's facing the camera or turned to the side. On the other hand, it thinks my friend Rachelle looks like my sister, my friend Nichole, and three other people. It has a check-in system so I can quickly approve or deny the identification it's guessing at.  The process also shows me how many people I know but have no contact info for.  Some of these people have been friends and acquaintances for several years, yet somehow I've managed to get by without ever sending them an e-mail, which seems strange (if I had their address, it would be in my Gmail Address Book).  And then, like, I said, I get to sift through the ghostly background images to see whether or not I recognize these people, and sometimes these aren't people at all (images from posters, T-shirts, or in the above case an iron railing).  It's not a perfect process.

It is a trip down memory lane to look at nearly 700 images of myself and revisit what I was doing at every point in the last decade. My hair changes, my face gets fleshier, sometimes I'm in zombie make-up. I've even scanned in photos from elementary school and high school, so my own age range is pretty broad. Picasa is inadvertently providing a greater product than it had intended, I think.  (The astute viewer will note some of the faces in the top row are not, in fact, mine: I have to go clean those up, but I'm leaving them in this image to show the fallibility of the program.)

Even the new Blogger In Draft feature, it's correcting my typing. Apparently everyone has banned the implementation of double spaces between sentences, and I need to get on the ball.

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