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Polar Rose is a new search engine now being tested that will allow you to find anyone in any photo on any site. Type in the name of a person you know, and find pictures of that person all over the web, on sites like MySpace or blog pages using face-recognition technology.

The Polar Rose search engine works by providing users with a special web browser plug-in that anyone can use with a web page that contains a picture. The process begins with the Polar Rose software identifying the parts of the picture that are actually images of people. For example, in a backyard barbeque snapshot, you might find a variety of elements in the picture, like grills, decks, chairs, and different people standing around. The software picks out the faces and puts a small "rose" icon next to each one.

The Polar Rose software then compares each face to its central database of faces. If a person's face is not in the database, the application will ask if you know that person. If you do, you can enter that name in the application window, and submit it to the database.

If the Polar Rose database knows the face, or if it has any possible matches, the Polar Rose plug-in will display it on the picture, and ask for your agreement or other input.

Polar Rose is a computer vision research project at the Universities of Lund and Malmö (Sweden). The goal of the 7 person team is to provide an application that will make images as searchable as text documents are today. The site designers are hoping for participation on the same order as the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. In just a few years, Wikipedia has amassed a database with millions of articles contributed by hundreds of thousands of users.

The Polar Rose search engine is currently in a closed alpha trial with a limited number of users, but will be scaled up as bugs are fixed.

Be sure to read about these unusual face-recognition technology applications:

Read and comment on the privacy issues related to Polar Rose software here; visit the Polar Rose website.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)
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