'Superhuman' A.I. Can Locate Any Image

Where was that random photo taken? Google's freaky new artificial intelligence machine can figure it out.

Where on earth was that random photo taken? Google's freaky new artificial intelligence machine can figure it out.

Computer vision specialist Tobias Weyand and his colleagues at Google created a deep-learning program called PlaNet, and trained it to identify locations where photos were taken based on visual cues.

Putting the Art in Artificial Intelligence: Photos

Imagine the ultimate game of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" Only way harder. The Googlers started by dividing up the globe into a grid, excluding the oceans and polar regions. Then they created a database for PlaNet that contained 126 million geolocated photos pulled from the Internet, Technology Review reported.

Since PlaNet is an artificial neural network, it can learn. So the team taught the network how to identify a photograph's location on the grid just using information contained in the pixels.

To test PlaNet's accuracy, Weyand and his team fed it 2.3 million geotagged Flickr images. From there, PlaNet narrowed down 48 percent of them to the right continent, 28.4 percent to the right country, 10.1 percent to the right city, and 3.6 percent to the actual street.

OK, so maybe it can't accurately locate every single random image on a map, but consider everything in that Flickr mixed bag: building interiors, pets, food. And while the results might not seem all that great at first, they became remarkable when the Google team pitted their machine against 10 smart, well-traveled humans.

The machine won more than half the rounds - and had better accuracy.

"PlaNet outperforms previous approaches and even attains superhuman levels of accuracy in some cases," the team wrote in their abstract about the machine. You can test your own abilities with online games like GeoGuessr. Might want to set an alarm first, though, because that one is kind of addictive.

A.I. Takes a Stroll Through Amsterdam

The team says that PlaNet doesn't need much memory, either. Their model only uses 377 MB, which means it could go into a smartphone, Technology Review reported.

I remember trying out Google Googles several years ago and quickly realized it was mostly limited to displaying info about well-known places. PlaNet has different potential. The technology could end up being like a Shazam for photo locations. You can run, Carmen Sandiego, but you can't hide from the Google machine.

via Technology Review