That we take a lot of photos is the understatement of the century. The problem isn't taking photos it is curating them - organizing and presenting them so that they capture a story, a feeling an interest. Curation is time-consuming and difficult. Now a startup is offering a new automatic curation service based on recognizing and understanding what your pictures are about.
Everpix has been working on the problem of photo curation for more than a year, but now it thinks it has something that can go mainstream. You can now use its service for free for all the photos you have taken in the last 12 months. If you want to go unlimited and put your entire photo collection on its servers then this will cost you $4.99 per month - not bad for storage, security and curation.
The idea is that Everpix makes use of AI to recognize what is the main subject of your photo. This isn't a completely new approach in that while iPhoto and Picassa organize your photos mainly by date and perhaps use some of the metadata within each photo they both have face recognition tools that can be used to find photos that include particular people. The Everpix software doesn't use face recognition, and this is a surprising omission, but it does recognize basic categories of photos including food, people, cities, nature and animals. It plans to add categories as time goes on. The software applies labels from a database that serve as short descriptions of the photos.
As well as organizing the photos the system aims to reduce duplicates by recognizing similar photos and selecting the best. It also detects defective photos and attempts to crop shots to improve them.
All of this is a difficult task. The company hasn't released any details of its algorithm, but it is based on machine learning and seems to work reasonably well. If a user disagrees with a classification they can manually modify it and report the fact. Even if the algorithm isn't 100% perfect, it still probably provides what most users would consider a good starting point. Users are also, mostly, very willing to consider suggested presentations of their photos - after all it's a matter of judgment and few of us are so confident that will will reject a composition or a collage.
The real question is what sort of unforgivable errors could it make?
One strange point is that the company blog suggests that the way to look after your photos is to "kill the algorithm", by which they seem to be saying that somehow AI-based methods aren't algorithms. It might be a good marketing slogan but, to quote The Hitchhikers Guide, this must be some strange new use of the word "Algorithm".
Given the number of photos we shoot every day, some form of automatic curation is a clearly needed. How best to do the job is far from clear. My guess is that Everpix wont be the last word in AI-based curation and that this is instead the start of a long development.