Machine Pareidolia: The Faces Hidden Around Us

Via Urban Honking, a strange experiment in using facial recognition technology to find the face-like forms constantly embedded in our surroundings. What does it all mean?

Pareidolia [is] the natural human inclination to see faces everywhere around us. Matt Jones advocates designing faces into new technology products as a way of making them more approachable, using pareidolia to give products personality and humanize them.


Facial recognition techniques give computers their own flavor of pareidolia. In addition to responding to actual human faces, facial recognition systems, just like the human vision system, sometimes produce false positives, latching onto some set of features in the image as matching their model of a face.

2 Comments on "Machine Pareidolia: The Faces Hidden Around Us"

  1. The human body is the fundamental starting point for all engineering design. We start by designing mechanical counterparts to our own equipment; when that fails, we next make the shift from legs to treads, etc. It’s natural that our first efforts to extend ourselves should be anthropomorphic, or anthropocentric, and it’s also consistent with our aesthetics. Look at “car faces,” for example, and how the expressions of the lights, grills, and so forth are used to convey the overall mood of the automobile. 

    I’m in favor of anthropomorphic design, if for no other reason, than to confuse CCTV.  

  2. I once had a friend who took it to a new level of lunacy… not only did his door have the face of his grandfather in the wood grain, but someone obviously broke in and painted it that way.

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