If you found it weird or upsetting that sites like Facebook can automatically recognize your face in photos, then a newly emergent technology that allows computers to recognize what you are doing in pictures will really freak you out.
Via Rich McCormick at the Verge, Stanford scientists Fei-Fei Li, who is the director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and Andrej Karpathy, a graduate student, have developed software that uses a neural network to identify not just who might be in a photo, but also eerily describe what is happening in it, from identifying objects to describing what actions are being taken.
As McCormick states in the article, a "picture of a man in a black shirt playing guitar, for example, is picked out as 'man in black shirt is playing guitar,' while pictures of a black-and-white dog jumping over a bar, a man in a blue wetsuit surfing a wave, and little girl eating cake are also correctly described with a single sentence. In several cases, it's unnervingly accurate."
It works in much the same way Google's image recognition software works, by comparing what is in a single photo to many, many other pictures that have already been described, and seeing what matches best. What makes this different is the scary accuracy of it, and the fact that the software can put the contents of a photo into plain English, which opens up the possibility of reverse searches of images by text. Ever had trouble finding that one photos, but couldn't just type a vague description into a search engine? You might be able to do that soon. You can even try it out right here.
Via the Verge
It also opens up possibilities for advancement in marketing, although such efforts are likely in very nascent stages. But what better way to advertise to, say, car enthusiasts than by looking through people's social media profiles for people working on their cars? Or finding knitters by looking for people knitting?
As advancements in image recognition and description continue to add context to what was once a rather blank part of our digital lives (how many of the photos on our computers have the title "image_" and then some random series of numbers?) so will technology continue to encroach into more and more parts of our day to day lives. We should all be ready for what's coming.