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Polar Rose – let’s face it

In faces, polar rose, search, troubleshooting, on July 27, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Polar Rose is a new web application and browser add-on. It works by analysing pictures on the page and pinning a little rose to everything it determines to be a face. By clicking on the rose all other pictures of that person stored in the Polar Rose database, and even pictures of others who have been seem with them, can be browsed. The aim of the project, it would appear, is to establish this new kind of visual search engine as the ubiquitous people-finding software on the web.

I have been using the public beta version of Polar Rose (currently version 0.55.9) with Firefox 3 for a couple of months. It is enabled whenever I am browsing the web and I’ve got quite used to the little rose icon in the corner of my screen pulsing into life whenever a page with a portrait is loaded prompting me to label whomever I know. However, beta testing is an exercise in troubleshooting and my casual use of the program has apparently brought to light a problem.

When I upload images to this blog something gets added to the code of the page or possibly its style sheet. The offending item in the page’s source is this bit of weirdness:


It looks like a cousin of the tiny rose button that is placed by the program next to faces it finds and yet these are broken links and they are literally embedded within the code of my blog. They appear as a cluster of dead picture links around the top left of any page to which I’ve uploaded images. It is becoming rather disconcerting and apart from being careful to disable the Polar Rose plug-in before uploading pictures to avoid adding to their number the only other solution I can think of is exporting the blog’s entire content as XML (a wonderful feature of, removing the offending bits of code if I can find them, and importing the content again.

The problem seems to be a conflict between Polar Rose and the image uploader engine. It would be interesting to know if other users running Polar Rose experience similar problems and, if so, whether they occur across the range of available blog themes or just for this one. I have contacted the support forum and Polar Rose feedback services about the issue.

I am quite convinced that Polar Rose will come to be regarded as an essential tool for finding people on the web. After all, it is not necessary to know the name of a person whose picture is found but only to recognise them from a picture. The sophistication of their face recognition engine is, for a mostly code-blind web user like me, only to be guessed at. It is a very intriguing project and I’m glad to be playing a small part in it.

UPDATE August 7, 2008: Johan and his team provided a fix I helped to test by posting images here. Both Johan and Geoff were very polite, friendly and informative. I think their project is very interesting and anyone who wants to know about new visual search techniques would do well to check their site.