Image Tagging

Two of my primary interests, photography and computing, relate together in a pretty neat area that is a common computer science research field but seldom applied in real world applications: metadata tagging. Sure, I use F-Spot to tag my pictures and can click on someones face and see all of the pictures they are in, but the software doesn't tag things for me and even though Gallery now supports tags, these aren't communicated from F-Spot when I upload them. I have 10,000+ images in my photo gallery and I'm certainly not going to take the time to re-upload all of them once everything shares tags. Then there is Flickr which is solely based on tagging images but I've never found their interface to be particular appealing to me. F-Spot will export there, but again, I don't think it supports tags. (I don't use Flickr so I haven't tried this out yet.) Anyways, tags are neat because they allow people to easily find things in huge collections of pictures but what happens when people start tagging things with location data? Gallery has a module that can display the thumbnails on a map using Google Maps, which is very cool, but thats just the pictures someone has. I was digging around and came across something very neat in the Yahoo Research Berkeley blog. They've built a tool, "World Explorer," that "opens a window to explore the entire world through the eyes of the users of Flickr." It is very cool! World Explorer pulls geotag data from Flickr and uses it to overlay keywords on a world map. You can zoom in and out and move around, similar to several other mapping tools like Google Maps, but keywords from Flickr show up on the map and their font size represents the perceived importance of them. Zoomed out looking at the US you see state names, and zoomed in to Atlanta there are tags for the new IKEA, Oakland Cemetery, Georgia Tech, and even "Graffiti." It's a novel new way of visualizing this data and I'm curious to see what future directions it might take!

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