There’s a new image storage service in town and, if you haven’t heard, it’s dang promising. Unlimited storage? Automatic geotagging? Search by photo subject? Yes, please. Google Photos is poised to take over my digital image library. It’s also good for a laugh when it gets it all wrong.
See, the machine learning algorithms Google uses to sort out what’s in your photographs is pretty good but definitely not perfect. Most searches bring up exactly what I’m looking for: pictures of food, family and specific locations. But some of my search results have been baffling, like the image above. Silly Google, 35mm analogue film loaders aren’t food.
The Photo app is still uploading and churning through the some 10,000 images I fed it this morning, but here are some of my favourite misclassifications so far:
Looking for a cold one? Sorry—best I can do is a Mickey Mouse Rice Crispy treat.
Hungry for comic books? Yeah, me neither—but maybe Google was just reading: loosely translated “Bento” is Japanese for “Lunch Box.”
All of these photos were taken between December 20th and New Years, but absolutely none of them have anything to do with Christmas.
Well, a bed is furniture. It’s not quite a couch, but I see where you were going.
No, Google. That’s not right at all. You can’t just lump all video games into one category.
I guess I understand how Google could have misread for cards but I have no idea how my old film camera got here.
That’s Disney World, Google. It’s not... well, okay maybe I can see your point, but I still like it.
The Virgin Of A Thousand Faces
Okay, this one might not seem that weird, but it totally is. See that face in the lower right hand corner? That’s the Virgin Mary from this Spider-Man / Jesus Christ mash up:
That’s fine! That’s what she’s supposed to be... but if I actually click on her image in Google Photo’s people line-up, I find out that she’s all these things, too:
The Holy Mother is apparently a Sega Mega Drive, some Disney Comic Books, the Dungeon and Dragons selection of my GOG library, a New Nintendo 3DS and Gizmodo Reviews Editor Sean Hollister using a laptop on a tripod at a Starbucks. That’s one versatile virgin.
To be fair, these are all exceptions—not the rule. Google Photo’s machine sorting got things right almost all of the time. The cars category of my library is indeed filled with cars, and almost everything in the food section is something edible. If I search for fun, it gives me pictures of my happy, smiling family. Overall it does a great job—but Google's machines still have a little learning to do.