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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.