Picasa Refresh Brings Facial Recognition

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In the anticipated release of Google’s new and improved Picasa, the company will offer facial recognition technology to help you identify friends and family in your pictures without requiring you to tag them by-hand each time you see them.

Launching at noon PDT today, Picasa’s facial recognition technology will ask you to identify people in your pictures that you haven’t tagged yet. Once you do and start uploading more pictures, Picasa starts suggesting tags for people based on the similarity between their face in the picture and the tags you already put in place for them.

The facial recognition technology comes to Picasa thanks to an acquisition Google made in 2006 of Neven Vision, a company that specialized in matching facial detail with images already found in a centralized database. Picasa’a facial recognition technology works in much the same way.

There’s no telling if the facial recognition technology will be able to accurately identify each person in a picture, but it does suffer from a setback that may annoy users: it works best when a person is facing the camera and will have trouble identifying them if they’re not.

“Our face-matching technology works best when a person is looking at the camera,” Mike Horowitz, Google’s Picasa product manager told CNET. “There are a variety of factors that may limit our success in matching faces, including profile views and challenging lighting conditions like shadows.”

Either way, it’s nice to see Google pull Picasa out of the doldrums and breathe some life into it. To play around with the facial recognition technology, head to Google’s Picasa page later this afternoon.