Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A face only an algorithm could love

So I got the new version of iPhoto on my Mac recently, and one of its features is called Faces. Faces goes through your entire photo collection and zooms in on faces, then asks you to name them. This is a great help later on if you ever need to find a picture of someone fast.

(Click any photo to enlarge it)

Faces shows you three faces at a time. Because it picks faces out of large group shots and from various big events, a lot of times the faces are grainy or you don't even know who these people are. This process results in some funky trios. Like the two vampires and Mrs. Enthusiasm above.

Here's another winner.

The process can get a little creepy.

After you have entered some names to go with faces, Faces begins to use some kind of face-recognition voodoo and starts asking you whether the picture is so-and-so. Suggesting names. When it guesses right, it's frankly a little freaky, but just as often it's wrong, resulting in awkward moments like this:

Sorry, Pam.

Faces is set up to recognize certain characteristics which constitute a face, but it's not smart enough to ascertain if it's a living face. A cigar store Indian passes muster.

As does an artistic rendering on a Rose Parade float.

And a mannequin head.

And a statue.

And the clay Mary figure from our Christmas creche display.

Fair enough, you say. They are at least human-esque. But...

I don't quite know what Faces was thinking in the center here.

Maybe it thought this was an evergreen Ewok face?

Like an Almodovar movie, from here the "faces" get increasingly surreal.

Look at the two dark triangles at the center. They could be eyes.
I guess.

O.K., I wonder what that algorithm was smoking.

Or drinking.

Ah, remember the old put-down, "A face like a table leg"?

Pretty in its way, but tell me, iPhoto, how is it a face?

How is it a face?

How is it a face?

I'm hoping for a face. Anybody?

Couple of eyeballs, some lips, something?

As Shakespeare said, "God has given you one face, and you make yourself another." Or in this case, iPhoto has given you one face, and it's one that only a mother could love, if your mother happened to be a circus tent.

It's comforting to know that as amazing as technology is, it's not perfect.

If it were perfect, it would find a way to make me still look like I did when I was 25.