High Tech at the WSOP: Photos Sorted by Facial Recognition Software
One of the most time-consuming tasks for any photographer is performed after the camera is put away. Sorting and identifying photos from a big event can take hours. Events don't get much bigger than the World Series of Poker, where thousands of players are in action each day. It's impossible for any photographer to know all the players.
But is it possible for a computer?
This year, the official WSOP photographers at Image Masters are debuting their FaceIT software, which uses facial recognition technology to automatically identify the players. This will allow everyone (players, friends, family, fans, and the media) to quickly search for photos by entering a player's name.
Of course, before a computer can recognize a player, they have to be introduced to each other.
How Do Players Sign Up?
Getting into the FaceIT system is quick and easy — and free. The Image Masters booth is located along the final hallway on your way to the Amazon Room, located just beyond the giant displays of cards in royal flush formation. It only takes about a minute to sign up.
Tell one of the girls at the booth that you are a player, and they'll invite you to be a part of their database. They'll ask you for your name as you stand on a mark to have your photo taken. It's just like getting a driver's license photo taken at the DMV. The computer will be using this photo to measure your facial features (things like the distance between your eyes, your jaw line, etc.), and create a profile.
If you're wearing a hat or sunglasses, you'll need to take them off. (Hats can create shadows on your face.) It doesn't matter if you haven't shaved, or you just woke up, or you don't like the shirt you're wearing — nobody but the computer will ever see this photo. (And facial hair won't affect the software unless you later grow — or shave off — a full beard.) Your hair is also ignored, so you can dye your hair or even cut it off without affecting the recognition software.
Once the camera snaps your picture, you're done. About forty-five seconds from start to finish. (I timed it.)
One last thing: Be sure to get your photo taken BEFORE you play in an event. The facial recognition software only works for events that take place after you're in the system. (Signing up the day of the event will still get you into the system in time.)
Finding The Photos Online
Photos will usually be available online the day after they were shot. Go to www.worldseriesofpoker.com, and click on the "Shop" link at the top of the page, and choose "Photo Store." That immediately takes you to the search screen.
Type in a player's first or last name (or both), and then choose the location in "Step 1." (For the WSOP, choose "Rio, Las Vegas - WSOP - 2006.") That's the only mandatory step, but you can further refine your search by only looking at a specific day or a specific event.
You will then be presented with thumbnail photos of that player. You might find a few other players mixed in, but this is necessary by design, as no recognition system is perfect. (It's better to err on the side of including a few extra photos than ignoring photos of the requested player.) Clicking on one of the thumbnails takes you to a larger view and a pricelist for purchasing prints or posters.
The search will become more comprehensive throughout the WSOP as more and more players sign up. They had over 500 players sign up the two days before Event #2 started, when they expected to start signing up thousands more. The top pros have been eager to sign up.
All photos are available for purchase by friends, family, and fans. If a media source wants the rights to use a specific photo, they need to click the link at the bottom of the pricelist that says "For commercial and rights managed use."
Tip: How To Find Your Photo If You're Not In The System
If you played in an event, but weren't in the FaceIT system ahead of time, there is still a way to find your photos online. But only if you know the name of one of the other players at your table (or possibly a nearby table).
If you were sitting across from Daniel Negreanu (for example), just search for "Daniel Negreanu." Find a photo of him from the same event, and click on the thumbnail. Once you're on the page with the pricelist, there is a link above the photo that reads "View more photos from the same photographer, time and place." Click that link, and you'll see several pages of photos from the same gallery. Since the photographers usually shoot the tables in order, you should be able to find photos of yourself near the other player.
The Story Behind THE FaceIT Software
Gregg Kantz, an Image Masters photographer, had the idea for this system at last year's World Series, after facing huge fields of unknown players. A glance up at a ceiling-mounted casino security cam sparked an idea: If security systems can use facial recognition software, why not photographers?
Kantz researched existing software, but nothing was available that met their requirements. Most software relies on full-facial image mapping (creating a 3-D map of someone's face) or analyzing video footage, which provides more facial angles. Nobody had a system for analyzing someone's face from a single photograph, and using it to identify other photographs.
So Image Masters developed their own software, called FaceIT (for "Facial Information Technologies). It appears to be the first commercial use of facial recognition technology outside of the security industry, and they have a patent pending on the technology.
They are still adding a few features to improve the system, including optional fields for nicknames and online affiliation.
The software was finished in time for a field test at the recent WSOP Circuit event at Lake Tahoe, allowing them to fine-tune the software even further. Now the system is ready for prime time at the 2006 World Series of Poker — the biggest poker tournament in history.
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