If you post a lot of photos online it can sometimes be hard to keep track of them all.
Polar Rose is a service offering a centralised album for all your online photos. Until now Flickr and 23hq.com were supported but now the most popular photo sharing service of all has been added – Facebook. The key feature here is the way it aids the tagging of people in photos using face recognition.
After linking up to your account through Facebook Connect the service sucks in all your photos. Similar to the face recognition in many compact digital cameras, the service identifies the faces in each picture with a small box. It’s probably a little over-sensitive, occasionally marking creases in clothes as a face (as you can see in the photo below), but in general it’s quick, easy and accurate.
Manually helping it with faces that it’s not sure of only takes a few seconds. While it can take quite a long time to do this for a big collection of photos, each time you’re helping the system learn for the future. The downside, annoyingly, is that when you tag someone the service announces the fact on the Facebook news feed. There’s no way to turn this off, the app simply won’t start unless you grant publishing access to this feed-spamming promotional feature. (Update: this feature has now been removed – see the comment from Polar Rose’s CEO below).
Could Polar Rose take off? It’s certainly useful for people with lots of disorganised photos. Most people tend not to tag their Flickr photos as religiously as they do their Facebook ones, so having a service to tag them and keep them viewable in one central location could be useful. The service has a social element, allowing you to view friends’ photo albums and share individual photos on Facebook, Twitter and Digg.
Polar Rose’s main competitor is Face.com, which also offers face recognition-based tagging for Facebook. Despite its far less memorable name, Polar Rose has the upper hand thanks to Flickr and 23hq.com support as well as its central, aggregated photo album.
It’s surprising that Facebook hasn’t brought face recognition technology in-house yet. Given its usefulness this seems a likely development for the future, leaving services like Polar Rose and Face.com on shaky ground.