Pareidolia – the phenomenon where our brain is somehow tricked into recognizing vague shapes as significant features – gets mentioned now and then on ScienceBlogs. The usual trigger for this occurs when someone tries to sell the Wonderbread Virgin Mary on Ebay before the blue mold completely erases her from the slice, or when one of our more monomaniacal colleagues sees something that he can associate with the New Atheism.
Interestingly, it seems that human-programed face recognition software may be as subject to these issues as our own face recognition is. The latest version of Apple’s iPhoto comes with built-in face recognition. It provides a really cool way to sort pictures, and it seems to work pretty well. Except when it doesn’t:
Like most of the false positive face identifications that people have pointed out to me, I don’t think I’d ever have made the connection on my own. But now that I’ve seen it, it does sort of look like there might be a face in there.
In fact it looks strangely familiar…