Google Photos, positioned by Google as a GMail for photos, is an incredible product. Incredibly amazing, incredibly scary. It does well what Google does well.
Update: If you are interested in learning more about the technology behind Photos and what it is capable of read this article: How Google’s New Photos App Can Tell Cats From Dogs.
It provides unlimited storage for all of your photos and then proceeds to organize them for you. For the first time, probably in your life (at least in mine), you actually have a library of photos that has been organized in some meaningful way. All organized in much the same way and with the same connections that you have in the real world…
Let’s leave the very obvious and significant privacy implications aside and the fact that our government is likely in possession of similar technology and look at the way the product is organized and how it very well could influence the future of search.
People, Places and Things is the main organizing metaphor for Photos.
Google manages to (mostly) successfully arrange every photo that you have ever taken into the right category… and often at an incredible level of granularity. And I have taken a lot.
People. Google’s ability to recognize people is amazing. They can pick out a person that is in the far distance or on the periphery of a busy scene. Clearly they can find faces and match them to a known set with very little data and from a photo with a lot of noise. Google is able to match the person in different photos despite bad lighting, partial side views, headwear and glasses that are not normally there.
Here is a range of photos from which Google was able to “pick” out my sister successfully whether covered in a medical gown, displaying black eyes, under exposed in the back of photo or in a crowd:
Places. That’s the relatively easy one. Almost every photo these days comes geotagged so Google knows, at least within a 100 feet or so of where it was taken. They don’t yet auto assign a specific location but they show incredible accuracy in auto assigning the photos to a city level. I assume that Google has more granular insights but has not yet turned them loose for fear of a privacy backlash.
Things. Google is able to characterize a wide range of entities from food to weddings, from ruins to statues. All automatically and all with a fair degree of accuracy.