Get ready for a new era in which your camera knows not just when you took a picture but who's in it, too.
Many cameras today can detect the faces of those being photographed, which is handy for guiding the camera to set its exposure, focus, and color balance properly. But the more difficult challenge of face recognition is more useful after the photo has been taken.
That's because of a concept called autotagging, one of a number of technologies that make digital photography qualitatively different from the film photography of the past.
Tags of descriptive data can be attached to digital photos, and they help people find and organize pictures. The only problem is that tagging your photos, today a laborious manual task, is like eating your vegetables. It's good for you but a lot of people don't like it.
With autotagging, the camera attaches tags as the pictures are taken. Today, cameras embed timestamps in photos, which makes it possible to sift through pictures by date. But be honest here--how reliably can you remember exactly when you took that picture of your darling daughter a year or two ago that you'd like to e-mail to her grandparents? Being able to screen for photos only of a particular person could dramatically speed up the search process.
One camera maker willing to mention its interest in autotagging is Panasonic. "A lot of thought is going into how to tag photos so you can retrieve them at a moment's notice," said Alex Fried, national marketing manager for imaging at Panasonic's Consumer Electronics Co. But he wouldn't go into specifics: "There are things we have in the works that will help benefit consumers going forward."
And faces aren't the only aspect of autotagging that's likely to show up in cameras. Location, too, is another useful attribute that can be attached to photos through a process called geotagging. Geotagging can be used both to look for photos whose location you know and to figure out what exactly is in a photo you already have at hand.
Today, geotagging is generally a laborious manual task that requires geographic data to be merged with photos after the fact using a computer. But more power-efficient approaches will lead to in-camera GPS systems that will enable automatic geotagging, predicted Kanwar Chadha, founder of GPS chip designer SiRF Technology.
"A location stamp is much more important than a time stamp in most cases. A year down the road, you have no idea where those pictures were taken and no way to search for location," Chadha said.