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Best of 2015: Data Mining Reveals How Smiling Evolved During a Century of Yearbook Photos

By mining a vast database of high-school yearbook photos, a machine-vision algorithm reveals the change in hairstyles, clothing, and even smiles over the last century. From November …

Data mining has changed the way we think about information. Machine-learning algorithms now routinely chomp their way through data sets of Twitter conversations, travel patterns, phone calls, and health records, to name just a few. And the insights this brings is dramatically improving our understanding of communication, travel, health, and so on.

But there is another historical data set that has been largely ignored by the data-mining community—photographs. This presents a more complex challenge.

For a start, the data set is vast, spanning 150 years since the dawn of photography. What’s more, the information it contains can be hard to distill, often because it is too complex or too mundane to describe in words.

Today, that changes thanks to the work of Shiry Ginosar at the University of California, Berkeley, and a few pals, who have pioneered a machine-vision approach to mining the data in ordinary photographs.

Continued

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Our best illustrations of 2022

Our artists’ thought-provoking, playful creations bring our stories to life, often saying more with an image than words ever could.

How CRISPR is making farmed animals bigger, stronger, and healthier

These gene-edited fish, pigs, and other animals could soon be on the menu.

The Download: the Saudi sci-fi megacity, and sleeping babies’ brains

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. These exclusive satellite images show Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up…

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

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