Little Known Black History Fact: Black Facial Recognition Software

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  • Gado Images, a business that provides historical photo licenses and prints, has announced the release of new technology called Open Computer Vision which uses facial recognition from scanned photos to search by person, specifically from the photo collection of the Afro-American newspapers.

    The Afro-American was founded in 1892 by a former slave named John H. Murphy Sr.  The newspaper is now a hub for a number of African-American publications around the country, including the St. Louis American and the Houston Defender. Photos from the archive date back decades with rare photos of African-American life that were on exhibit at the Reginald Lewis Museum in Baltimore.

    The project began in 2010 with a Johns Hopkins University student who developed a robotic technique to digitize archived photos. After meeting with the Afro-American newspaper who held millions of historical photos from black culture over the decades, they have digitized 30,000 photos thus far. There are an estimated 1.5 to 3 million photos in the entire collection that were originally handled by one individual and a scanner.

    To alleviate the issue of finding particular subjects within the massive archives of photos digitized, the Gado Image company developed a solution called Eigen Faces and the Open Computer Vision.

    As a result, individuals can send in a photograph or a relative or famous person they are searching for, and the new technology will scan its entire archive for any related photos, even if the subject is in the background of the photo or holds a small presence in the overall picture. The result is an easier way to search for ancestors and descendants based via digital photo technology.

    The new facial recognition technology will be available widespread to various institutions in the near future. The robot digital archive kit is already available at Gado Images.

    For more information on the digital archive and the facial recognition technology through the Afro-American Newspaper, go to www.projectgado.org.

    NOTE: Thanks to Amy Smith and Tom Smith with Project Gado for this information.

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