By Zack Martin, Editor, Avisian Publications
Apple Inc. is taking facial recognition biometrics to the masses by including the technology in the latest version of iPhoto, the computer company’s photo management software. iPhoto is one of a suite of products in iLife, which includes movie, audio and Web design tools.
Apple sent me a copy of the software to and I gave it a spin to see how it worked.
It took about 15 minutes to install the software on my two-year-old MacBook. During this time it was also searching my photo library of more than 1,900 images to find faces, a process that took about 45 minutes.
After restarting, iPhoto offered to take me through a guided tour of the new features, including how to use the facial recognition. It’s pretty easy to use, you pull up a picture and hit the “name” button on the bottom of the screen. A box will surround the faces in the picture and enable you to click and key in a name.
After doing this for a few people it will start to recognize the faces of the people pictured in your photo library. From then on when you click on the photo a dialogue box will appear asking if the picture is someone you previously tagged. You can click on a check mark if the facial recognition has correctly identified the person or an “x” if it isn’t them.
Now you can search your library by individual. So if you’re looking for pictures of a specific person you can search by his or her name instead of trying to remember an event or specific date when you took the photo.
The ability of the software to recognize individuals at first wasn’t great, but wasn’t awful. For the most part it did a fine job and after tagging someone it would recognize that person in future photos. But then it would make a suggestion that would be a head scratcher, mixing up people with different hair color, ethnicity and face shape. What did make sense is it mixed up people with similar body types and facial hair.
Even with the minor confusion the facial recognition feature in iPhoto is a plus. Instead of having to page through photo after photo looking for a specific individual you can click on a person’s face and have every image of that person available. It’s not a killer application but it’s a nice feature and a great introduction to biometrics for a new segment of the population.