I am not Elvis

by Charles Miller on January 29, 2009

Like a lot of other Apple nerds, I suspect, I spent quite a while last night playing with the new iPhoto face recognition function, teaching it to recognise all the people in my photo album (or at least all the ones I recognise myself). Apple has done a great job of taking something tedious—adding metadata to photos—and making it almost addictive.

It's the sort of feature that in a few years time we won't be able to imagine photo management software without. I suspect Facebook are looking around for face-recognition software to license as we speak.

Still, a few gripes:

  • The feature is a bit ambiguous. If I use it to say "Bob is in this photo" even when his face isn't particularly clear, am I hurting the classifier? Does removing a suggested face mean “this is nobody I care about” or does it mean “this is not a face”?
  • When showing me all the possible matches for one person's face, the only options are "accept" and "reject". If there's a the "This is really <person>" option, I can't find it.
  • I would love to have a mode that showed close-ups of all the already-detected faces in my library and allowed me to classify them in bulk.
  • Years of using OS X has trained to position windows by placing the top-left corner, then resizing from the bottom right. The selection-box for manually highlighting faces works by centring the box, then resizing it around the centre from any corner. This just feels wrong.

Enough of that. One of the most fun things about the iPhoto faces feature is that like any Artificial Intelligence, when it's still learning it's really funny.

(For the uninitiated, most of these screenshots come from the mode where iPhoto shows you all the photos it thinks are a certain person, and asks you to accept or reject them.)

Exhibit A: I guess I should be flattered?

Exhibit B: For some value of ‘face’…

(I guess “cliff face” is close enough?)

Exhibit C: This is not my face.

Exhibit D: You can expect a few mistakes, I suppose…

…but this might be going a little too far?

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