FREE Face Recognition Software Brings Hope

Have you got a whole lot of photo albums of unlabeled photos that you have accumulated over the years?  Is labelling them proving a nightmare? Are you still looking for a solution?


I have accumulated over 40,000 digital photos on my computer. Labelling each photo manually was proving a nightmare. I decided to sleep on it. The following day I came across a piece of software that answered my concerns. Picasa is a free face recognition software from Google.


Once installed, the software will go through your photos, picking out which ones contain faces. It will then group the photos into groups which it "thinks" belong to the same person. It will ask you to label one face, out of each group, with a name. It will then automatically label all the other photos as having that name  in them. Before committing itself, it will ask you to just confirm that it is correct. If you un-tick the ones it has made a mistake on, it will drop those faces back into the "unknown" group for you to come back to later.

Picasa is able to pick individual faces in group photos and will zoom in to each face as separate faces for you to label. It will then be possible, for instance, for you to ask Picasa to display all the photos in which John and Jane appear together. It will then display the individual as well as group photos in which the two appear together.

When I was trying it out, one of the faces Picasa threw up was of a total stranger. I clicked on the face to see the whole photo from which Picasa got the face. It turned out to be a face in the background of a family photo taken in the town center! Another one turned out to be a reflection in the shop window behind my daughter, out on the high street. That's how powerful the software is!

But that is not all! Can you imagine what will happen when all these private databases, with your permission,  are able to communicate with each other at some time in the near future? Your "unknown" faces will be recognized because that is someone's son or daughter, and they have labeled their photos with a name! The stranger in your photo will have a name. The school group photo in which you remembered only a handful of former class mates will be fully labeled. The partially tagged photos in your Facebook account will be fully tagged.

Picasa has numerous other cool features. Each photo can be tagged with different labels, while it remains in its original folder. It does not move photos into narrow folders, but instead allows each photo to be labeled with as many tags as you wish. Thus when you are searching your collection, you can find all your "Christamas 2009" photos in which you appear or you can find them by entering your name in the search box.

Geo tagging allows you to allocate your photos to the physical location where they were taken. A Google map pops up and you drag the icon representing your photo to the spot on which it was taken. (Some of the newer digital cameras automatically record the GPS co-ordinates for you, and this can be automatically downloaded with the photo and used to pin point the location on the map). This allows you to search for "Kwacha" or "Chimwemwe" photos.

Like fire, Picasa unleashes a force that we can use for good or for evil. The more people are aware of the pros and cons of this powerful software, the more meaningful will be the debate we can enter into as we survey the future and put safeguards in place.

You can download this free software here. Give it a go, if you haven't yet done so, and come back and share your thoughts with us in the comments box below.

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