Photo Search

Unexpected growth in number of digital photos has created a great opportunity for a product to manage, organize, and access photos. During my recent cruise, I again found a compelling evidence that now almost everybody uses only digital camera – hardly saw any old cameras and one the very few that I saw went out of order. SO I must have seen about 1000 people using cameras and all of them – well at least 990 of them – digital. And I once again realized the fact that people take more pictures – a lot more – with digital cameras.

So I took about 1000 (between me and Neil) photos during this trip. And now I have the daunting task of doing something with these photos. What do I do?

Well I put them on my computer where Picassa is going to ingest them and organize them and will let me see them as folders (that I create) or on the timeline based on when I creat those folders or what date I assign to those. The other thing that I could do is to put some of those photos on Flickr and tag them so some of my friends could see those. Of course other people could also see those – but I am not sure how much I am really interested in sharing those with the world – I know that I am definitely interested in sharing those with my friends. But it is going to take me quite some time to upload them and tag them. SO I have not uploaded any of those yet.

Why do people take pictures and why do they consider them as one of the most valuable possessions? Clearly, pictures are ‘frozen experiences’ or important ‘memories’ that you want to retain. While looking at pictures, people are visiting their past or they are sharing their experiences and memories with friends and families. And in sharing these experiences, people take these ‘micro-experiences’ and want to combine them in a way to tell a complete story. Albums are created to share a ‘macro-experience’ that is assembles from micro-experiences.

A very important thing that people can do with digital photos much better than the paper photos (or chemical photos) is creation of these albums dynamically. This is a great facility and this has not yet been developed as well as it could be. These dynamic albums are an excellent vehicle to tell customized stories to your family and friend. No two people need to see exactly the same album – you can share only those micro experiences with them that may be of interest to them.

Another facility is of course to enhance pictures easier than one could. Also, do some remixing of pictures at intra-photo level also.

Finally the most important feature will be to access the image that you want at the right moment without spending minutes, if not hours, looking sequentially through too many pictures. This facility is also important in assembling dynamically albums. In fact this facility is as important as search has been for text – first on Web and then on desktop. This facility may be even more important for photos because of their richness and the importance of perspective in seeing what you see in photos.

Maybe I am missing some important point when I see people use text around a photo on web or emphasize role of text tags to photos. I am not at all convinced that these approaches are any better than the approaches to get to moon by climbing mountains, if not trees. Because we still don’t have techniques to solve the real problems, we are spending time on techniques that are clearly of very limited applicability. I don’t mind developing these techniques for solving some early problems – or getting low hanging fruits – but these should not become a diversion that takes us completely away from solutions that we should be looking for.

So what we do for managing and organizing photos for accessing them as search engines allow us to do for text? Well, I do believe that that is a Billion Dollar question.

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