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A face isn’t quite as unique and ageless as a fingerprint, but it’s easily captured and searched. Facial recognition, in combination with data from surveillance cameras or online profiles, is a powerful tool in finding people and tracking their every step. On the entertaining end of the spectrum, a face search can reveal your online (celebrity) lookalikes or your age.
Here are five face recognition search engines that may give you a thrill. Let’s see what they reveal about you or your friends.
1. Google Images Search: Reverse Face Search
Did you know that you could search Google by images? Rather than a keyword, you can use an image to search for similar images.
Click the camera icon to search by image. You can either paste the image URL or upload an image and Google will find similar images.
Moreover, you can make Google search for faces only by adding a small bit of code.
When you go to Google Images Search, enter your query, hit Enter, and then add “&imgtype=face” (without the quotes of course), either to the end of the search URL or right before another string starting with &. This will further improve the results of your face-related search.
Below is a before and after example that you can try for yourself:
Google also offers its face recognition in Google Photos.
2. PicTriev: Face Recognition
PicTriev goes one step further by actually searching for similar faces. Unfortunately, the feature is limited to lookalike celebrities.
What you do is add the URL or upload a photo in JPG or JPEG format, with a size no larger than 200 KB, and the search engine will return matching celebrity images found online.
For demonstration purposes, I used my own headshot. While PicTriev correctly identified me as overwhelmingly female, the number one match was Jason Clarke. The age estimation of 30, however, is very flattering.
It works much better if you search for a celebrity image.
PicTriev also lets you compare the similarity of two faces or estimate whether photos of two faces are the same person. Click the meter icon on the top right, upload two photos, select similarity or identity, and let PicTriev do its calculations.
Before you add photos, be sure to follow the instructions on formatting for the best results.
3. TinEye: Reverse Image Search
TinEye’s reverse image search works almost like Google. You can upload an image or paste a URL and search for it. TinEye does not support any more search operators, making it both simpler and basic.
In my test, TinEye found three results, one of which Google had not included because the site died years ago. Also, it missed a newer result that its big brother had picked up. To me, this indicates that TinEye’s search index is largely outdated.
Unlike Google, TinEye links directly to the pages where it found the images and it skips similar images.
4. PimEyes: Face Search
Similar to Google’s reverse face search, PimEyes uses images and face recognition to search for similar faces on over 10 million websites. The demos using celebrity faces like Angelina Jolie or Zac Efron look promising.
For example, you can search for Jennifer Aniston’s face using four different photos at once. PimEyes will find the original photos, as well as other shots of Aniston.
Curiously, while the app does find the original pictures used for the search, the similarity is only scored at around 70%. Shouldn’t it be closer to 100%? Or does the algorithm take image resolution, size, brightness, and other digital alternations into account?
I tried the service myself, providing PimEyes with three different photos of me to analyze. The GIF below illustrates the process.
There are other photos of me to be found online, but PimEyes didn’t spot them. The best it could find was someone else’s face with a 62% similarity. Apparently, my pictures do not appear on one of the 10 million sites analyzed by PimEyes.
Note that PimEyes offers a 24 hour deal that unlocks access to its premium search results. But given my questionable results, I would not recommend paying for this service.
5. Betaface: Facial Recognition Demo
Betaface offers a facial recognition search similar to PicTriev’s photo identification. You can upload an image or send the image URL and the face search engine will isolate and characterize all the faces it can identify in the photo.
Next, you can compare faces (with other images you uploaded), search celebrities, or search Wikipedia for each recognized face. The results will appear in the Face recognition matches table.
This tool is useful for uploading and comparing photos in bulk. In addition to classifying faces based on 101 pro facial points, you can also enable extended geometric and color measurements, as well as a “best face only” feature. Both of these slow down the processing, but will increase the quality of your matches.
Bonus: How-Old.net: How Old Do You Look?
This tool uses a photo to guess the subject’s age. Microsoft built How-Old.net to showcase its machine learning APIs. What’s more fascinating is what Microsoft learned through this experiment. Apparently, wearing a hat can make you look younger, while glasses will make you look older, and losing your beard can also shave off some years.
What Does Your Face Reveal?
Face recognition and search tools have a range of useful applications. Not only can they help the police identify suspects from security camera footage. They can also help professional photographers or media companies index visual material and build large and easy to search archives. Moreover, face recognition can replace passwords and keys.
But there’s a dark side to every tool. Not too long ago, the Facezam viral marketing scam highlighted what face recognition could do to your privacy. The creators of the app claimed that—within seconds—you could find anyone’s Facebook profile by uploading a picture of their face. Essentially, FindFace for Facebook.
While such an app violates Facebook’s privacy policies, Facebook itself uses facial recognition powered search to identify people in photos (unless you disabled the feature). And presumably, Facebook’s face search engine is better than the FBI’s identification tool. Why? Because you’ve been voluntarily stuffing Facebook’s database with a huge variety of photos, all helping its AI improve faster than the FBI could ever dream of. And it’s all legal. You can’t always hide your face, but you can protect your privacy online.
If you have an iPhone, check out these reverse image search tools for more revealing discoveries.
Image Credit: Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock