Thursday , May 24 2018

HowTo: Enable face recognition in the new Google Photos

google photos faces

One of the much-talked features of the new Google Photos is facial recognition, but like many great things from Google, we don’t actually get to play with it here in Australia. That is, unless, you follow a few quick steps and enable it, and then you too can have facial recognition in Photos! I turned it on this morning and instantly it recognised my family members, suggesting that facial recognition is enabled behind the scenes for our region, you just can’t actually use it without following this simple process. As you can see above, Photos instantly showed me photos of me, the kids, Rachel, her sister Kate, and my father and brother.

Neat. Obviously there’s a few hiccups… for example the top row second entry and bottom row first entry are the same child, but kids faces are notoriously difficult for facial recognition to get right.

Anyhow, so you want this too? It’s easy to enable, and takes a matter of a minute or two.

Step One

You’ll need a VPN to enable a connection to the US. The easiest way to do this is using Tunnelbear. It’s free, and it works for this purpose. If you’re a subscriber to other VPN products (e.g. PureVPN) then that will work perfectly well also.

TunnelBear VPN
TunnelBear VPN
Developer: TunnelBear, Inc.
Price: Free+

Step Two

You need to wipe your Photos settings. The easiest way to do this is as follows:

  1. Go into Settings > Apps > Photos
  2. Wait for it to load the data usage figures
  3. Click the ‘Clear Data’ button

Don’t worry, this just removes the app’s settings and data on your phone. You won’t lose any photos.

Step Three

Connect your VPN, and make sure you specify an endpoint in the US. Most VPN software for Android makes this really easy. Here’s an example of the setting in TunnelBear – make sure it says United States at the bottom.

When it does, click on Connect (the slide button at the top of the screen) and it’ll connect up to the US VPN. It’ll take a moment or two to establish, and you’ll have to click OK to an acknowledgement prompt. Sorry I didn’t manage to grab a screenshot of that — just trust me, it’ll pop up, click OK and it’ll be done and you’re connected.

Step Four

With the VPN active, go back into the Photos app. You’ll be presented with the setup/intro wizard again. Just click through all this and be sure to turn on automatic photo backup. You don’t actually have to, but it’s easier to enable it now than to enable it later via settings.

Step Five

Once you’ve gone through the setup wizard, you’ll be at the normal photos landing screen. This is the last step. Open the side navigation menu, click settings, and then enable the new ‘Group Similar Faces’ option.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll have access to view faces in the search option. Just hit the blue magnifying glass icon on the photo screen (the one on the left shown just above, for reference), and then you’ll see all the faces Google has recognised from your photo library — it looks like the header image for this howto guide.

Its important to note that this is a one time process only; once you’ve activated the feature, you won’t need to use the VPN again, and better yet, it enables the feature on every device you use, including the web-app.

Enjoy! Let us know if you have any hiccups.

Chris Rowland   Editor and Publisher

Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag. He saw the transition from AMPS to GSM, loved the Motorola StarTac, and got into Palm technologies in a big way. The arrival some years later of the original iPhone, and then the early Androids, awoke a new interest in mobile technology, and Chris has been writing about it since.

Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

43 comments

  1. First it worked for me, but now it just recognised 20 Faces and stopped… Any Ideas on how I might get GPhoto to do the rest? (its enabled since … 2 Months)

  2. I’ve done these steps and the website shows People with grouped faces, but I still only see Places and Things on my mobile devices. It’s been a few hours already since I enabled the feature.

  3. Hi Chris, back again to annoy you re Photos update. Have tried the whole process again but still no go on the faces thing. I presume that this update will be coming to Australia anyway at some time?? Do you know if this is planned? Many thanks.

  4. Hi, I did this trick twice, but I’m only getting the toggle “Group by similar faces”. Then when I hit search icon People section is not there. Any idea why? Thanks

  5. Is it possible to remove faces/people? Some times there are people in the background that can be recognized but I do not know them.

  6. Just tried it again, found the Application manager in bottom of settings. Loaded VPN and connected it then disconnected it and my Photos app rebooted but NO option for the Group similar faces when I went to settings. Just doesn’t seem to work on Samsung Note 4 ??? Any other suggestions? By the way I did also clear the data on the app as advised. Did all the steps in correct order, but no go??

  7. Can this be done via a PC?

  8. Step Two

    You need to wipe your Photos settings. The easiest way to do this is as follows:

    Go into Settings > Apps > Photos

    Wait for it to load the data usage figures

    Click the ‘Clear Data’ button

    Don’t worry, this just removes the app’s settings and data on your phone. You won’t lose any photos.

    No connection for above sequence ” Settings > Apps> Photos on my Note 4 so cannot see anything re data usage figures or a “Clear Data” Button??? Can you help??

    • If you’ve installed the new Photos app (you need to install it, it’s not part of Google+ anymore), then you should have an app called ‘Photos’ installed, which you can see in the Settings -> Apps list of downloaded apps. I don’t have a Note 4 here, so I can’t really tell you exactly where to find it ..

      • Hi Chris – Just tried it again, found the Application manager in bottom of settings. Loaded VPN and connected it then disconnected it and my Photos app rebooted but NO option for the Group similar faces when I went to settings. Just doesn’t seem to work on Samsung Note 4 ??? Any other suggestions? By the way I did also clear the data on the app as advised. Did all the steps in correct order, but no go??

  9. Worked for me thanks 🙂 Not sure if there is any contyrol over face recogition to make corrections etc, but doesn’t seem like it. Also not sure if it in any way integrates with faces I’ve already tagged in Picassa.

  10. Didn’t work for me. I don’t see that option.

  11. Thanks for that Chris! Hopefully Google soon allow you to re-assign facetags to train the recognition engine.

  12. Thanks Chris. Is there a way for this magic to work on iOS as well?

  13. Worked for me – awesome Chris!

  14. Worked perfectly..

  15. Awesome. Was wondering how to do this. Ausdroid to the rescue for us Aussies yet again. Thanks Chris.

  16. This is awsum, thanks Chris. Quick question, I’ve never used a VPN before. Do I just disconnect from Tunnel Bear now and Photos runs as normal with face recognition ?

  17. Utsav Shrestha

    Is this just a one time process? Wth, I’ll give it a try any way…

  18. Worked for me!!
    Thanks

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