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August 14, 2006

Gmail Pictures Used For Face Recognition?

Gmail allows you to add pictures for your contacts. If you upload a picture, Gmail will ask you to crop the picture, to separate the face of the person. So Gmail has a database of multiple images for a lot of persons.

This seems like a nice feature, but I think it's more than that. It's a very easy way to obtain a database of faces useful for face recognition. Algorithms for detecting and recognizing faces are good, but not good enough, and this is a great way for Google to improve their AI algorithms using the data obtained from its users.

Google was very close to acquire Riya, a face recognition service that has expanded into a visual search engine for people and objects. They didn't bought the company because they want to develop an in-house solution. This might be integrated into Picasa to automatically detect persons in your photos and organize them better (like MyHeritage does) and might be the foundation of a new kind of image search engine, that understands more from the pictures.

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