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Who's Behind That Beard?

7th Maine Infantry assistant surgeon Francis Marion Eveleth

Researchers used facial recognition technology to identify the man in this Civil War photo as Francis Marion Eveleth, assistant surgeon in the 7th Maine Infantry.

Credit: Maine State Archives

Computer scientist Kurt Luther, working with a group of researchers at Virginia Polytechnic and State Institute, has launched Civil War Photo Sleuth (CWPS), a Web platform that applies facial recognition to anonymous portraits that survived the Civil War. When a user uploads a photo, the software maps up to 27 distinct "facial landmarks." Users are further able to refine their searches by adding filters for uniform details that could reveal the soldier's rank, and the program cross-references the photo with other images in CWPS's database; the final search results present an array of possible matches for consideration.

In the site's first month, CWPS logged 88 reported identifications, of which 75 were "probably or definitely correct." "The beauty of CWPS is that the more people use it, the more information gets added, leading to more identifications—it's a virtuous cycle," Luther says.

From Slate
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