Facebook just got a lot better at knowing exactly what is in your photos

facebook photos
Credit: Facebook

Facebook knows a lot about you.

Depending on what you tell it, Facebook knows who your friends are, where you work, who you are in a relationship with, even your phone number. And now it knows not just what objects are in the photos your post, but what is happening in them, also. But how does it know all that?

In IT Blogwatch, Facebook tells all. 

So what exactly is going on? Thorin Klosowski has the background:

Facebook updated its search feature...so you can...search for photos based on simple descriptions, like “pizza” or “dog” regardless of if they’ve been tagged...this is still a little unpredictable, but seems to do a pretty good job of the basics, like differentiating between obvious objects, attractions, and scenes.

Is there anything special behind this update? Hillary Grigonis has the details:

Lumos is [Facebook's] artificially intelligent program that allows the computer to “see” what’s inside the image you just shared...that system is getting an upgrade with the ability to recognize actions...The network’s automatic alt text, used for describing a photo to the visually impaired, will now recognize 12 different actions, from walking and dancing to actions that can be described by a verb with a noun...like riding a horse or playing an instrument.

What are the benefits of this update for users? Lisa Eadicicco is in the know:

The new tech will...make it possible to search Facebook for photos based on what's in them, rather than just by date taken, tags, or location. If you're trying to find a photo of a paella dish you cooked last year...you'll be able to simply type "paella" in the Facebook search bar. This..will help...users quickly find images without having to remember when they were taken or how they were tagged.

And what is behind Facebook's new push to better understand photos? Daniel Terdiman fills us in:

A.I. is...something the company sees as a key to delivering the most relevant content across many, if not all, of its major services. It seeks to dominate in A.I. and machine learning...and has assembled teams totaling more than 150 people devoted solely to the field. Facebook has also tripled its investment in processing power for A.I. and machine learning research...in recent years...Facebook isn’t alone in these efforts. Every major tech company is investing heavily in A.I...the technology is seen as the basis of the next era of computing.

So what does this mean for the future of A.I.? Stephen Shankland has an idea:

A.I. has long held promise to improve computing...But only in recent years has it begun to deliver. And boy, has it. Expect major changes this year well beyond tech companies as neural networks reshape everything from the drudgery of setting up meetings to the creativity of logo design.

This all sounds great. Are there any downsides? Dave Gershgorn can think of one:

There are privacy considerations...Being able to search photos for specific clothing or religious place of worship...could make it easy to target Facebook users based on religious belief. Photo search also extends Facebook’s knowledge of users...to what they actually do in real life. That could allow for far more specific targeting for advertisers. As with everything on Facebook, features have their cost -- your data.
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