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Chapter 2. Overview of the Save the Memory Project

(7)Searching Photos from Personal Computers

One of the major themes in this project was to devise measures that would somehow simplify the process used by disaster victims to search for photos at the Photo Center using computers.
Of utmost importance was the hospitality support by local staff members at the Photo Center, but we also developed a dedicated photo searching website called with improved operability of the photo search.
The merits of providing an internet-based photo search service that uses web technology are as follows.

  • Photos can be searched without depending on a specific environment as long as you have a computer that is connected to the internet and a web browser.
  • Photos can be searched using a web-user interface that is ordinarily familiar when browsing the internet.
  • The number of personal computers used for searching can be easily increased.
  • Large volumes of image data related to multiple cities and towns can be centrally managed.
  • The system can be built with just development on the web server side.
  • Managing which photos are returned to whom and other administrative duties at the Photo Center can also be centralized on the web.

The main specifications of the web-based photo searching service are summarized in the next section.
In designing the user interface, we utilized the capabilities of our Corporate Design Center, as well as the expertise cultivated thus far in product development with focus on ease of use.

The search method is primarily based on “searching photos by looking at image thumbnails,” but tag searches using character strings can also be performed. For example, users can search for images with the tag information of “wedding photos”. Also, depending on the user, the “memo information” that is added later can be extremely useful. For example, if a user discovers a photo of an acquaintance, that user can add memo information to that photo such as “Taro Tohoku” as the name of the acquaintance. Then when Taro Tohoku inputs his own name, the photo to which Taro Tohoku was added as memo information will be displayed as a search result. This is called social tagging.
The most characteristic search method is a “facial search” that can search for photos having a similar face. This search method was realized using “NeoFace” face recognition technology kindly provided free of charge by NEC Corporation. When a user finds a photo of himself, if he clicks on his own face, a list of photos with similar faces is displayed. Through this function, once a single photo is found, numerous other photos can be easily discovered. Visitors can also have their picture taken using a digital camera at the Photo Center and then use that photo to perform a facial search.

Note that out of consideration for privacy, this web-based photo search service is not be opened to the general public, and searching and viewing of photos can only be done using computers located at the local Photo Centers.

People are searching on PC for their photos (Minamisanriku Town)

People are searching on PC for their photos (Onagawa Town)

People are searching on PC for their photos (Watari Town)