Friday, 5 September 2008

Picasa Introduce Facial Recognition

In contrast to hype surrounding of the launch of Crome, Google’s new web browser, Picasa web album another of the Google family, very quietly launched an interesting technology of their own, this week.

The new Picasa technology, referred to as ‘name tagging’, takes some of the pain out of adding tags relating to the identity of individuals in your photographs. If you share photos on the internet, you’ll be used to adding tags (or keywords) to your images. Tags help you find your images within sets or collections on your site and allow search engines to catalogue them effectively.

One of the best things about the new name tagging technology is that it sits very comfortably with the old site, a new button has appeared giving you the option to add name tags. There is no need to reload images that you have already uploaded.

The name tagging process, automatically identifies what it thinks are faces within your images, it then asks you to put names those faces. Once you have named a person a couple of times, it will learn to identify that person for you and automatically tag them for you in future uploads.

To make tagging easier, Picasa automatically links to your gmail contacts and predicatively tries to fill names for you as you type. Another technology enhancement also allows “geo tagging” or adding geographical data to shots, by allowing you to drag and drop images to Google maps.
The application works best with higher resolution images and images that are taken from a similar angle to shots its already seen, and in some cases will ask you to confirm the identity of a person that it does not recognise.

Of course, you have the option to keep images private or to share them, but being a Google related technology, if you choose to share your images they will very quickly be picked up in Google searches, and if you are using the Google labs advanced search tools, the location will be picked up by the geographical filtering.

Picasa has been around for a while, but its always been overshadowed by yahoo’s flickr. Will this sort of advancement in technology be enough to tip the balance in Picasa favour.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Google Crome Goes Beta

Google Launched Chrome, their new browser in a slightly unusual way this morning (02 Sept 08), sending a cartoon strip (drawn by Scott McCloud) to google based blog site blogoscoped. They later said that this was an error and that the comic should not have been sent out prior to the launch. The 38 page comic explained how browsing the internet was changing, the technology behind their new browser, why they had built it from scratch and what it meant to the user. This was not only a very creative approach to explaining very complex technology, but a very effective one.

The Beta which is available for download now, is limited to the pc platform at this time (mac and linux versions promised to follow shortly).The Beta launched in 100 counties simultaneously, and is available to all users, rather than being invite only or users having to sign up to a waiting list.

Google's website states 'Chrome is a browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier' .

Sundar Pinchai, VP Product Management, and Linus Upson, Engineering Director say on their blog "all of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends - all using a browser. Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build."

Many google watchers have been speculating that google would introducing a browser for some time, building on their knowledge of the search engine industry and web aps. Initial response to the release has been good, with many key bloggers and technologists giving it great reviews already. My experience has been that the beta seems to be not only stable, but very fast.

Some of the key features are; the One box for everything, essentially the search bar and address bar have been combined so you can enter a url or a search term into the same box. They have managed to make this simple and intuitive, in a very elegant way, using colour and shade, so that while the whole url is displayed the root part of the url stands out, so you know exactly where you are.

Crash control, these days tabbed browsing is pretty much the norm, but the more tabs you have open the more chance that one tab will freeze, and usually when that happens the whole browser freezes, but chrome operates each process in its own memory, and offers a task manager like control over these processes.

Incognito Mode, sometimes you may not want to have your browsing saved in the browser history, or to have store cookies stored (for example if you have a family computer and want to purchase a surprise gift for your wife online without her knowing) but you may not want to delete your whole history or all your cookies. Incognito mode allows you to easily switch between privacy levels.

Open source, the code for chrome is available to developers, so they can write their own plug-ins and add-on, increasing the functionality of the platform.

So i guess the big question is will i be switching to chrome? While i would love to answer that with a simple yes, i'm going to have to answer with "its complicated!". For a start i do some of my work on a mac, so i can switch quite yet, also by favourite plug in's are not yet available for chrome, and it doesn't have the functionality of flock for social networking, or run some of the new microsoft products like live mesh or photosynth. So while i'll certainly be doing some of my browsing (especially when doing research online) i won't be using it for everything just yet!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Live Mesh Tech Preview

Following a successful but limited trial (tech preview) , Microsoft have extended Live Mesh to a wider trial, removing the waiting list for US and UK trial user .
Live mesh allows users to create a mesh (or collection of devices) and then synchronize folders across all (or selected) devices. Ensuring that you always have the latest version of a file or folder wherever you connect. At the moment live mesh only supports xp/vista based devices, (mac and mobile devices are planned). The mac client in particular is rumored to very close to completion, one rumor goes as far as saying that a version was recently posted on the Microsoft website, but later removed.

Live desktop is a web based interface that allows you to access your (synchronized) shared files and folders over the internet. You can choose to keep these private or share them with friends. Live desktop also shows you a list of your devices indicating which are currently online, and giving you the ability to remotely control those devices.

Both Live Mesh and Live Desktop are based around not only synchronizations but also security,
and as part of the Microsoft live family integrates with existing Microsoft live accounts.

For those of us with growing number of devices and personal networks or small businesses's its the ideal way to keep you at the centre of your digital world and ensure that the information that matters to you is seamlessly and consistently up to date wherever you happen to be.

I saw this technology demo'ed by Steve Clayton of Microsoft at thinking digital, back in May
and it look fantastic. The tech preview has certainly been no less impressive.

For those of us with both macs and pcs or even just a desktops , laptop and a mobile, it will certainly take the pain out of keeping versions of files consistent across those devices. Add to that the fact that you can remotely take a file from your camera in the office, sync it to your home pc, then remotely control the home pc to push it to a wireless photo frame in your living room, and you'll get an idea of the power of the mesh.

But i can't help wondering if this is all coming a little late. I'm already using on line services for my email, contacts, calendars, bookmarking, and file sharing, this allow me to keep my files online, so they are always up to date and available wherever i connect . So the question for me is, how much of a benefit is it to have this all in one place? and does that merit persuading all my friends that share this data to move from those services that where already using to live mesh?