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The Computer Scientist Who Wants to Put a Name to Every Face in Civil War Photographs

By Smithsonian

March 20, 2019

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's Kurt Luther combined crowdsourcing and facial recognition to produce free online software to help users identify unknown subjects in Civil War-era photos.

The development of the Civil War Photo Sleuth software began with the accumulation of a large database of already identified photos, from national archives as well as private collections.

The database helps users identify people in photos they upload themselves, having manually tagged special visual traits; a facial-recognition algorithm then analyzes and logs unique face ratios.

Photo Sleuth compares the visual data of the unknown image to already identified photos in the database, and displays what it considers the best matches, based on facial similarity and information derived from the other metadata.

Analysis determined 85% of the proposed identifications were either probably or definitely a match.

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