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Google Faces, 2013

Runtime 1:51 Google Faces is an algorithmic robot hovering over the world to spot portraits hidden in the topography on planet earth. The custom application works autonomously to process vast amounts of satellite images through Google Maps by using a face detection algorithm. This endless cycle produces interesting results for reflection on the natural world. Objective investigations and subjective imagination collide into one inseparable process in the human desire to detect patterns. The tendency to detect meaning in vague visual stimuli is a psychological phenomenon called pareidolia . Google Faces explores how the cognitive experience of pareidolia can be generated by a machine. By developing an algorithm to simulate this occurrence, a face tracker continuously searches for figurelike shapes while hovering above landscapes of the earth. Primary inspiration for the project was found in the “Face on Mars” image taken by the Viking 1 spacecraft on July 25th, 1976. One of the key aspects of Google Faces is the autonomy of the face searching agent and the impressive amount of data it can investigate. The agent flips through satellite images, provided by Google Maps, to feed landscape samples to the face detection algorithm. A corresponding calculation moves sequentially along the latitude and longitude of the earth and once the face tracker has circumnavigated the globe, it switches to a zoom level and starts all over again. As the stepsize for each iteration continuously decreases, the amount of images scanned and travel time of the device increases exponentially. The face tracker provides versatile and astonishing results as it endlessly travels the world. Some of the detected images are not ideal as it is not possible for the human eye to recognize any visible facelike patterns. Other satellite figures inspire the imagination in a tremendous and often comical way. The search continues as our diligent robot perseveres its investigation. onformative is a studio pursuing to challenge the boundaries of art and technology. They are guided by an emotional approach to search for experimental forms of creative expression. The studio explores the possibilities that lie between fields of knowledge and practice to question the relationship between humans and technology. This approach strives to create new ways of thinking through a diversity of methods and processes by creating meaningful works and incite explorations for themselves and the public across disciplines. These processdriven curiosities examine conceptual narratives and mediate the intersection of digital and analog fields. The studio explores ideas through unique interpretations, insights and perspectives. By staying true to an experiential process, their pieces take on varying forms across media including interactive media installations, dynamic visuals and datadriven narratives. Through an interdisciplinary and collaborative practice, the visual language of onformative is variable and open to the perception of the individual. Works by onformative have been exhibited across Germany and Europe as well as the United States, Canada, Australia and China. Among others, they have taken part in exhibitions internationally at galleries such as the Museée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Museum of Digital Arts in Beijing and festivals across Europe including Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria. onformative has received numerous awards and recognitions and has written articles for periodicals and as well as their own publications. They are invited regularly to exhibit works, and present their artistic practice at conferences and universities.