Photo APIs have long been a staple of developer applications. There are more than 350 photo APIs in the ProgrammableWeb directory and almost 800 photo mashups. However, most applications integrate with photo sharing services, like the Flickr API and Instagram API, missing the real power of photo APIs. This post identifies four ways that APIs are getting smart by using image recognition technology to find faces, words and more.
Face Detection and Facial Recognition
As humans, we're programmed to like seeing other humans. With face detection and recognition, our applications can also be programmed to notice humans—or at least their faces.
- Face Detection APIs enable you to locate faces within photos, including the pixel coordinates.
- Face Recognition APIs enable you to train your application to not only detect faces but recognize individuals.
In addition to detecting faces and specific people, some of these APIs also will find specific features (mouth, nose, eyes), orientation (angle of head, whether the mouth is open or smiling), objects like glasses and even guess the individual's mood.
One popular face recognition API gained 40,000 developers before it was bought and killed by Facebook. A number still exist or have sprung up since, including the Betaface API and LambdaLabs Face API. Three more were added in November alone, most recently Ceeq API.
Recognizing everyday objects within photos is an exciting and expanding area of image recognition. It took a hit earlier this year when Yahoo bought and shuttered IQEngines.
Recognizing things in an image has a lot of applications, most notably wearable computing, as GigaOm wrote in September. AlchemyAPI is known for its textual analysis, but it shared an object recognition demo for the GigaOm story and it's reasonable to expect that might become a full-fledged product.
A subset of object recognition—and perhaps its largest use case—is brand recognition. For example, snap a picture of a wine label and receive a link to purchase. Labels and logos are the low-hanging fruit, but fashion is a common use case.
Text Recognition / OCR
OCR, or optical character recognition, is perhaps the oldest photo recognition technology. Take a photo of a sign—or often an entire document—and get it converted to text. This helps make editable documents that otherwise aren't, such as a printed piece of paper.
That's four ways that image APIs are getting smarter. Have any others to add?