I recently discovered a less-known feature of Google Images, and subsequently killed half a day’s productivity playing with it.
Inside the search box, on images.google.com only, there’s a little camera icon that lets you search the Web for photos that look similar to one you upload or link to.
My inner narcissist immediately uploaded my headshot.
Google accurately identified me as a thirty-year-old, curly-haired white dude. To my delight, it compared me to an array of rather handsome celebrities:
On the other hand, Google also said I look like actress Jamie Lee Curtis, the really pale kid on Glee, and Ellen:
Ok, so maybe I do look a bit—just a bit!—like Ellen. Can’t say I’ve never been called “ma’am” before. But also, it looks like Google could have put us together because we were all white and making the same close-lipped face or something.
Out of a somewhat morbid curiosity, I decided to play this game for the rest of the afternoon, using photos of my officemates within eyeshot.
Here’s who came up for the dashing Joe ‘Lazer’ Lazauskas, editor-in-chief of Contently:
I was upset that Google thinks Lazer looks like my man Ryan Gosling aka the best looking man in the world (it’s a good thing women are attracted to men for their personality or whatever), but I had to concede to Google that Lazer is, indeed, a fine specimen. It even accurately guessed that he is the same size as Elijah Wood!
Our VP of Product, naturally, looks to Google like the clean-cut neighbor you’d trust to pilot your airplane or save you from a spider in your bathroom:
I was about 30 minutes into this game, and Google was on FIRE. Speaking of fire, Google decided that our marketing manager looks like the redheaded girl in all the haircutting ads, the girl from Dirty Dancing, Christina Aguilera, and Harry Styles:
And that’s around the time Google Images started breaking.
Our UX lead, Kunal, for example, apparently looks like Abraham Lincoln:
Also, Ben Affleck and Old George Michael.
(I can see it. Kind of.)
Google thinks our CEO is Shave-head Channing mixed with Shave-head Travolta mixed with Always-looks-the-same Vin Diesel:
My table-mate Ray is apparently the love child of a young Hugh Jackman, Jaws, and Kim Jong Un:
Then, I tried Sam Slaughter, our VP of Content/The-Glue-That-Holds-Us-Together. I popped in his former Facebook profile picture and this is what happened:
I tried again with a random sleepy photo from his feed:
Well. Apparently Sam looks like everyone, regardless of race, age, and eyewear.
I tried a different picture and got this…
Perhaps I needed a proper headshot to do Sam’s visage some more comprehensive justice.
It turns out, after trolling Sam’s Facebook for an hour, that he has few normal photos. Get some headshots, man!
For this photo, I got this:
If Sam ever gets arrested for something, he has a great shot of not being identified in a police lineup.
Finally, I gave Google this one…
… and got recognizable faces: Adam Levine, Bearded Jackman, and Facial-hair-man from Hunger Games:
Nice job, Sam.
From this Internet rabbit hole, I conclude two things: First, photo recognition tech is weird. And second, apparently Googlebot doesn’t see race. Score one for equality.