Just yesterday, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt was saying that the company wouldn’t be developing a facial recognition database. Now, a patent has been published by the USPTO entitled: “Automatically Mining Person Models of Celebrities for Visual Search Applications”. The timing is bad considering all the negative press about Google lately.
The Google engineers state in the celebrity facial recognition patent that, by feeding a name list and images corresponding to an individuals name, they’ll be able to create an accurate biometric model for the celebrities: “Recognition is then performed based on precision and recall to identify the face images as belonging to a celebrity or indicate that the face is unknown.” Not only would image search return tagged photos but any image on the web with that target celebrity, which would be great for news publishers looking for fresh pictures. Great for paparazzi, maybe not so great for fan club members.
According to the patent, the database has already experimented with a list of 1,000 celebrities (out of a larger set of 30,000) which includes Barack Obama, Britney Spears, Prince Harry of Wales, Brad Pitt, Sarah Palin and her daughter Bristol. As of the time of the experiments, the system had a hard time hunting down clean images of less-notable celebrities such as Bristol Palin who kept popping up with images of her mother.
Other problems presented in the “Failure Cases” section include different names associated with the same target, such as the problem between “Prince Henry of Wales” and the more colloquial “Prince Harry” (the latter turning up more images). Also, the system had a hard time distinguishing between the faces of fashion designers, and the faces of those who wore the designer’s clothing or simply celebrities wearing sunglasses.