Low Cost Facial Recognition for Libraries & Archives?

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, March 16, 2010 10:12 AM

I recently read a post on the Vancouver Law Librarian blog from Steve Matthews wondering if any libraries were using Aperture 3 for a Mac or any other software for assisting them recognizes faces in their digital image collections.  This seemed to have interesting possibilities so we decided to do some further research.  I have used Picasa for years for my personal photo collection and have created albums for each of my family and friends using the facial recognition feature.  It works amazingly well, identifying people correctly from their baby pictures through adulthood. Most of the errors were when it confused siblings, which is as you would expect.

I know that many of our clients use Photoshop Elements for editing their digital images.  I found a review comparing the Elements interface to the Picasa interface and it appears that if you are not using Elements right now, Picasa would be a better starting point – and of course it  is free.

So, once you have let Picasa import your selection of photos, you would seed it by identifying some names and then let it churn away.  As you confirm its choices,  it will add more photos to the album for each person, without physically changing the original location of your image files.  Our challenge then would be how to enable users to get this information out of Picasa and into their databases.   Not so easy unfortunately, as Picasa does not embed the names into the image itself.  However we tested exporting the albums as XML which does include the name, so from there we could write an XSLT to parse the data for import into Inmagic DB/TextWorks.  Maybe just editing records by searching for the matching image numbers would be adequate for small batches. At least Picasa would give you a head’s start by identifying and grouping people.

We have done projects where we embedded the latest metadata for copyright etc. from a database record into an image each time it is downloaded from the web, and we can reverse the process and extract data from an image for importing into the database.  We can also add the ability for users of a website to comment on photos and identify specific individuals in a photo by selecting their face with their mouse.

We have so many clients interested in digitizing archival photos, or in keeping track of born digital images for marketing purposes, that we are definitely going to be keeping an eye on possibilities in this area. As always, any comments or suggestions are welcome.

Tags: digitization

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