Google News Today? (Picasa Update)

So I hear Google’s introducing a new beta product today. No, not that Chrome web browser. But rather, a real update (finally!) to Picasa. Assuming all goes according to plan, Picasa 3.0 (beta, Windows) and enhanced Picasa Web Albums will both be unveiled this afternoon. The most significant new feature appears to be face recognition:

The “name tag” feature presents users with collections of photos with what it judges to be the same person, then lets them click a button to affix a name. “Once you’ve started naming people, we’ll start suggesting names for you based on similarity,” said Mike Horowitz, Google’s Picasa product manager.

Feasible photo face recognition and search is something Jeremy Toeman and I discussed several years ago… So I’m a bit surprised it’s taken this long to see these features creep into consumer software. Although I can’t say I’m surprised with the challenge in properly identifying a subject:

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

Of the additional new features, video slideshows with YouTube export look most appealing. I’m interested in seeing how they stack up against iPhoto and Animoto (now out of beta).

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