Is Tagcow the Future of Photo Recognition and Tagging?

Is Tagcow The Future of Tagging on Flickr?

Leaving It All Behind Me

Ok, now I have no idea exactly how this works and I’m still trying to figure it out, but this could be something very, very cool.

On Thursday I got an email from a company called Tagcow. Tagcow claims that they can automatically tag thousands of photos for you. They are using the Flickr API and are set up so that you can either upload photos to their own site or link your Flickr account up to their site where both descriptive and people tags can be added to your photos.

Tagcow has some demo videos on their service here.

I tested the site out yesterday using my avatar and uploaded the photo to their site. The photo was tagged with man, Canon, camera and mirror. Very accurate descriptive tags of the photo.

So I decided to take the Flickr plunge yesterday and linked my flickrstream up to their site via the Flickr API authentication and have started to see tags coming back on my flickr photos.

Take the photo above. I tagged the above photo myself with the following tags: How Berkeley Can You Be Parade, How Berkeley Can You Be Parade 2007, How Berkeley Can You Be 2007, parade, car, art car, art, and Disney.

Tagcow added four additional tags to the photo above: figure, witch, wicked, and toy.

Ok, those are *excellent* additional tags to add to that photo.

Now I have no idea if Tagcow is using some sort of Riya-like photo recognition software or if they simply have a bunch of people manually tagging away my Flickr photos in the background, but either way this seems really, really cool.

I’m not sure on the economics or business model of Tagcow but the application for a site like this in terms of image search seems pretty huge.

I’ll blog more on Tagcow after I understand a little more about how their technology works. This definitely may be a company worth watching.

Update: More from TechCrunch here.

More from Incremental Blogger here.

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22 Comments

  1. Torley says:

    Thomas, my appreciation for the headsup on Twitter (where I follow you) about this — I’ve signed up and wish there was a way to get it working with *already-uploaded* photos, but I’ll keep an eye on this service too.

    Perchance, do you know what the “Pole account for new images:” means? I presume it may be a typo of “Poll”?

  2. ricin says:

    This could definitely come in handy. I’m really bad at coming up with descriptive tags for my photos.
    Hopefully they’ll get it working with photos already uploaded, as torley mentioned.

    Now all I need is a way to pull back tags from Flickr to my photos locally.

  3. Stephen says:

    Thanks for hooking us up! I was disappointed that it can’t spider my current photos, but it looks like it’ll be useful for the future. Maybe they’ll add Zooomr support too.

  4. gbierman says:

    Oh yes, I’ve been wanting something like this for a long time. I suck at tagging.

  5. cyberdex says:

    Maybe they are brute forcing the problem space via something like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk on-demand workforce.

    http://aws.amazon.com/mturk

  6. cyberdex says:

    Check out this poor guy’s photostream.

    http://flickr.com/photos/22774602@N02/

    Appears that tagcow essentially spams your flickr stream with ads in the descriptions, once they add the tags. Not cool.

  7. Cyberdex, are you sure it spams your flickr photo comments? I ask, because there doesn’t seem to be a similar comment on Thomas’ witch photo (unless he removed it).

    Cool service, but as mentioned in the link below, it seems a little sketchy and I hesitate to give it access to my Flickr account without knowing exactly how it works.

  8. Adam Hyman says:

    Awesome post! Thanks

  9. Andre says:

    Jeez guys, pay a little attention, wouldya? Michael Droz is one of the co-founders and CEO of Tagcow. HE puts the ads there…

  10. Aaron says:

    Espen, thanks for the link. That is sketchy, if true.

    The scariest part is their privacy policy which is indeed “TBD” per their site. Oh and the TBD “legal stuff”.

  11. I hate tagging photos but I do it… and if this service can do it for me, it would make my life a bit easier in a long run! I will give it a try, thanks for the info!

  12. Thomas Hawk says:

    The scariest part is their privacy policy which is indeed “TBD” per their site. Oh and the TBD “legal stuff”.

    Aaron in my case I don’t care much about their privacy policy. All of the photos that I asked them to tag are public photos of mine on Flickr. 100% of my photos on Flickr are public. To this end I’ve already made the decision that these photos ought to be shared with the entire world and I wouldn’t necessarily expect any privacy from Tagcow with regards to these photos.

    If I had private photos on the other hand I might not trust them to tagcow. Then again, if I had private photos I certainly wouldn’t be uploading them to Flickr as public photos either.

  13. Thomas Hawk says:

    Perchance, do you know what the “Pole account for new images:” means? I presume it may be a typo of “Poll”?

    Torley, yes, this is my guess. My guess is that the service routinely connects up to the Flickr API to check for new photos to tag for you.

    Appears that tagcow essentially spams your flickr stream with ads in the descriptions, once they add the tags. Not cool.

    Cyberdex, I don’t think this is the case. I think the stream you are looking at is the CEO of the company’s. I’m sure he tagged his photos with his company name to build awareness of his company.

    I didn’t find any spam or marketing being tagged to my imagery.

  14. Anonymous says:

    It’s Amazon Mechanical Turk, idiot. No image recognition software, no magic, just using cheap labor.

    That is what Thomas Hawk thinks is Genius !!! What a punk…

  15. Wow. Calling someone a punk while staying “anonymous.”

    Classic.

    And actually, it hasn’t been made clear as to how the company conducts their business. We can only assume that it is done with “cheap labor.”

  16. Wizetux says:

    In an article in the Seattle PI, they asked the founder, Michael Droz, how they were doing the photo tagging. He states that they are using Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk system. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/357177_tagcow01.html

  17. Z@ndor says:

    I tagged a lot of pictures of ugly british people and second life screenshots for them

  18. From the terms of service:
    “by posting, uploading, providing or submitting any Submission you are granting TagCow permission to use your Submission in any manner, including, without limitation, the license rights to: copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform,reproduce, edit, translate and reformat your Submission; to publish your name in connection with your Submission; and the right to sublicense such rights to any third party.”

    Is this a rights grab? Without paying for the service how is this company supposed to make money, especially considering they have to pay people to tag the photos?

  19. TranceMist says:

    I recently came across this article by David Pogue, and in turn this video on Human Computation that explains how Google gets people to tag millions of images for them, correctly and effectively, for free.

    Incidentally, there’s a hilarious scene in that video starting at time = 20:30.

  20. Torley says:

    Followup: I ended up sending my whole Flickr stream of 10,000+ images through TagCow and it came out through the other end with what I’d term “pleasantly mixed results”. In some cases, the results were excellent, in some, awful, and in most… they were “OK. I blogged about it here:

    » TagCow’s free Flickr auto-tagging gets pleasantly mixed results with Second Life pictures

    @z@andor: You may’ve been tagging mine! And if so, thanks!

  21. Breisa says:

    “Now I have no idea if Tagcow is using some sort of Riya-like photo recognition software or if they simply have a bunch of people manually tagging away my Flickr photos in the background, but either way this seems really, really cool.”

    — They have a bunch of people working on Mturk, they tag images for like $0.03. :D