While taking a photo of Kristen Radtke’s wonderful book, Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, I noticed my iPhone camera was trying to recognize some of the faces in the comic.
Humans are programmed to see faces in almost anything. But I got to wondering how realistically drawn a face had to be in a comic strip for the machine to recognize it. So I pulled out one of my comics anthologies and did some tests:
Fascinating what facial recognition picks up… ? pic.twitter.com/vLiPYdPfCc
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) September 7, 2021
The funniest and most meta recognition was in this strip of James Kochalka’s American Elf, in which he draws himself realistically:
When it came to Love and Rockets, I expected the machine to recognize Jaime, but not Beto. I was wrong:
Another sampling of cartoonists whose faces got detected, clockwise, from top left: Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Daniel Clowes, and, surprisingly, Ben Katchour.
My initial hunch — that the more abstract a face is, the less chance the machine would recognize it — turns out to be generally true, but not completely.
For example: @dribnet on Twitter pointed out that you can create a drawing that looks abstract to humans, but gets picked up by face detectors,” which he’s done here and here:
I don’t have anywhere that I’m going with this, I just thought it was interesting…