In artists Erwin Driessens and Maria Verstappen's installation "Pareidolia," a computer vision system uses facial recognition software to find faces in grains of sand. Of course, "pareidolia" is a trick our brain plays that causes us to see meaningful patterns that aren't really there, like animals in clouds or hidden messages in songs. From the artist statement:
Driessens & Verstappen are fascinated by the idea that all the faces of all the people who have ever lived and will ever live, may be found within the enormous quantity of grains of sand existing on earth. And even although finding a face is very rare, you know that innumerable faces are concealed among them. If you search long enough in the well nigh inexhaustible quantity of grains. Pareidolia* is a fully automatic robotic search engine scrutinizing grains of sand in situ. This proceeds as follows: there is a dosing funnel in the machine that sprinkles the sand across a slowly rotating glass disc. The microscope is above the disc and the light comes from under the glass. In addition to the sprinkle funnel, there is a swiper swiping the sand away that has traversed round the circuit, so making space for new grains. In addition to the optics and the mechanics of the robot installation, the artists have developed the detection software themselves, whereby they utilize AI and artificial neural networks. If a face is discovered within the scattered grains, a portrait will be recorded photographically. The system keeps tally of the top 100: as more grains are evaluated, this top 100 comprises increasingly higher scores, therefore better faces. The top 100 are shown on a large screen and its rounded form refers to the ocular nature of the microscope.
images: driessens & verstappen