Saturday, March 7, 2009

iPhoto and Face and Place Recognition

With the latest iPhoto update Apple added two key new features: faces and places. In faces, iPhoto does a decent job of recognizing faces in pictures and then tries to match the patterns to find the people. You give it a few hints and it tries to find more of the same person. For years i've used keywords to identify key people so I can find pictures, say, with myself, my daughter and my wife in them. With faces in theory this is made more automatic. 

My experience though has been a little different. It did force me to tag more pictures and put some structure around the naming of pictures. The actual face similarity piece is about 50/50 in my experience. An odd side benefit I found is that I enjoyed the process and we actually had fun with the program guessing a completely wrong person for a given face. How could my friends face match my sister? Combine that with an OCD tendency and you can entertain yourself for hours matching faces and names. But in the long haul, given the lack of accuracy I don't think the addition added much value and you can't rely on it.

With Places, Apple goes through a lot of trouble to point out GPS camera support and that certainly works with the poor pictures that the iPhone takes. But if you go and stroll through Best Buy, the now defunct Circuit City, or Wal-Mart, how many GPS enabled cameras do you find on the shelves? Zero. None. So is this feature solely aimed at the poor pictures taken on camera phones? If so i'd argue that Apple and iPhoto isn't the place to store them but something more online, more accessible since these cheap shots have limited use and quality.

You can, after import, add location information to your pictures, and again thats another time sink for OCD people and it provides little long term photo management value.

Would I buy the update again knowing what I know now? Probably, I love iPhoto and want to have the latest updates. But if you're buying it for new features, think again.