By Louise Ure
I bought a new computer and upgraded my mobile phone a couple of weeks ago. It was beyond due time. I still had the first generation iPhone and my Mac only had 4 GB of space left on it, even though I’d trimmed down all the unnecessary apps and videos and documents. I was traveling down the fast lane in first gear.
Because Bruce had been my previous “tech specialist,” the purchase required hired help. Enter Mitch: my Personal Technology Consultant and new hero. He transferred all the data from one computer to another, set up a secure WiFi network plus one for my guests, cleaned out the old computer so I could give it to my sister, and even recoded my TV remote controls so that I didn’t have to use one for the volume and another to change channels. “We’ve got some time while it’s transferring,” he said once the Firewire was connected. “Got anything else you want me to do?” (I wish I’d known then that he was an ex-chef from Brennan’s in New Orleans. I would have come up with an entirely different list of what to do.)
“Yeah.” I started hauling out every electronic gadget and peripheral in the house. Bruce’s last six cell phones, four back-up hard drives, an ancient Global Village modem — still somehow plugged into a socket! — a rat’s nest of AC adapters and wires, even a Sony Video 8 player that should by now have its own wing at the Smithsonian.
He quickly sorted the mess into piles. “I’ll recycle this for you … I can sell this for you on ebay … you’ll need a spare one of these just in case …”
When all the sorting was done, I still had three spare iPhones with no SIMs cards. “What do I do with these? Sell them on eBay? Give them to a women’s shelter?”
“Sure,” he replied, “or you can leave one in the car as an iPod, use another beside the bed as an alarm clock, put one in your travel bag as a travel alarm. Hell, you can use it as photo-slideshow drink coaster if you want to. It’d be a great conversation piece.”
Brilliant. The guy’s a genius.
After he left, I started playing around with the new computer. Of course, with updated hardware comes the opportunity for updated software and I got my first chance to play with the latest version of iPhoto.
You can organize the photos by event, of course, based on the recorded date and time that the photo was taken. Or by place, if you imported the photos from a GPS enabled camera.
Or you could create folders based on who was in the photo. This is where it got creepy. The new iPhoto software uses face recognition technology to ID and sort through all the photos in your library.
You start by identifying one face in a photo by name. “Bruce,” I marked under one recent portrait of him. The app then shows every other picture it thinks “Bruce” is in. “Is this Bruce?” it asks coyly. “Is this Bruce?” “Is this Bruce?”
Maybe Apple felt like being inclusive that day. The iPhoto inquiries ran the gamut from twelve pictures of Bruce to a photo of Willy Nelson on stage and one of Kris Kristofferson with a beer in his hand. The list included one old boyfriend of mine, whose decades-old photo I’d uploaded to the computer a couple of years ago because the original was in such bad shape (hmmm … I’d never seen the resemblance before). But it also asked “Is this Bruce?” over one out-of-focus shot of a Golden Retriever. (I won’t even go into the iPhoto option to “Add Missing Face” if the subject is photographed from the back or with their face turned. It’s just too, too sad. I’d be adding Bruce’s missing face all over the place.)
But, if this is the state of the vaunted face recognition technology we’re using at airports and high-target mass gatherings to fight against terrorism, then we’re shit out of luck. If TSA has the same success I did, they’ll be arresting an Irish Wolfhound instead of an terrorist.
But as poorly as the technology worked for me, I kind of like the idea of an aid to face recognition. As a person who forgets faces as easily as names, it would have come in handy that time that I couldn’t identify my own cousin at a signing. And I could use a portable version of this app at the next Bouchercon. Haven’t seen you for two years and you dyed your hair? You lost forty pounds and now bear no resemblance to that author photo on the book jacket I’ve been looking at since 2005? No problem. I’ve got my face recognition iPhone 4 right here.
How about you guys? Any electronic joys or travails in your life? And how good are you at recognizing those faces from year to year?