Roughly a year after rolling out facial recognition on its Picasa Web Albums site, Google on Tuesday is introducing an updated version of its Picasa software (for Windows | Mac) that can recognize faces in photos stored on users' computers.
Just as it does on the Web, Picasa scans your photos for faces, then groups together photos of specific people. It's then your job to tell it who they are as well as confirm its guesses. If someone you're tagging is in your Google address book, you can also look them up very quickly with auto-complete. Otherwise, Google gives you the option to add them as someone new; this information then gets synced back up your Google address book.
The system worked very well for me, but it was slow going. I had to leave the program running overnight for it to finish processing my 3,700 or so photos for faces. It also had my processor humming, since it was doing all the work on my machine instead of Google's giant server farm.
That's not to say Google hasn't included a few things to help speed up the process. For one, if you've got photos that are both hosted online and on your hard drive--and that have already been scanned for faces, the Picasa software can grab that information and add it to your local library. This saves it from having to scan the same photos twice.
And for photos it thinks contain people you've verified as contacts, it gives you quick "yes" and "no" buttons that can add or reject name tags. Oftentimes, clicking "yes" adds a few more suggestions for photos of that person that the program feels is safe enough to recommend. There's also a way to group accept or group decline its suggestions, which saves time you would have otherwise spent clicking the buttons one at a time.… Read more