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Facebook’s New Photo App Uses AI to Recognise Your Friends in Pictures

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Posted June 17, 2015

The networking giant’s brand new Moments photo app scans for faces in the images stored on your smartphone and matches them to their owners on Facebook. The photos are then grouped by occasion – say, a wedding or a night out with friends – and made available for private group-sharing.

The artificial intelligence battle rages on with Facebook introducing its new Moments app that can recognise your friends in photos by scanning for faces. Image credit: Marco Paköeningrat via flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The artificial intelligence battle rages on with Facebook introducing its new Moments app that can recognise your friends in photos by scanning for faces. Image credit: Marco Paköeningrat via flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0.

This makes it a whole lot easier to sort through all of your pictures and find the ones you wish to share with whomever it may concern, as opposed to the current all-or-nothing situation where users can only share either a single picture or an entire album. With artificial intelligence, arranging images into groups and deciding when a particular photograph could be appreciated by another person may soon become much less of a hassle.

Luckily for those who care about their privacy online (and everyone should, really), the app doesn’t automatically sync and post all of the available images on Facebook – at first boot, everything it finds is dumped into the “Private” folder, allowing the user to choose which content is to be made public and which is to stay private.

For extra protection, you can also choose to turn face-recognition off and remain anonymous.

While it’s no secret that the app’s engine uses the other, previously tagged photos of the same person to deliver more accurate results, Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, claims the company is not developing AI to mine more data from its users, but rather to offer them better services in the future.

“Were there ever to be concerns, we could have a constructive dialog. I think the compound positive effect on humanity is going to be huge. I think the applications for Facebook are really clear and obvious.”

Moments uses pattern-recognition technology that was developed by Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) lab, a group of 50 researchers led by Yann LeCun, an expert in a type of machine learning, known of deep learning, which uses a set of algorithms that attempt to model high-level abstractions.

“By building a system that learned to recognise people and objects in images, we could enable this new service,” Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post on Monday.

“In the years ahead, artificial intelligence and image recognition have the chance to make the Internet fat more useful for everyone.”

Moments is now available in the US on iOS and Android, and will be rolled out to more countries over time.

While the app doesn’t seem like much today – it’s not exactly the jaw-droppingly intelligent, artificial mind seen in movies like Her – it does signal a major shift in how we engage with our technology.

“With artificial intelligence, we have a chance to build a new generation of apps and services that are more natural, intuitive, and valuable,” concludes Zuckerberg.

Sources: cityam.com, cbronline.com, wired.com, cnbc.com, momentsapp.com.

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