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The future awaits at sea

Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Staff / March 26, 2004

She steps up to the machine and stares. The machine stares back, capturing an image of her face and comparing it to pictures in its memory bank. Success! The machine's computer screen flashes the images for her eyes only.

This is hardly a scene from a sci-fi movie. Instead, it's something that, come mid-April, will be happening aboard the newest Carnival cruise ship, the Miracle. The ship, which sails from Jacksonville, Fla., is set to be the first to take advantage of advancements in facial recognition software, letting cruisegoers find pictures taken of them by ship's photographers. The device, however, is not intended to completely do away with this familiar scene: passengers looking over dozens of posted photos in search of the ones taken of them. That, says a Carnival spokesman, is part of the cruise tradition.

The stand-alone kiosk, developed by ImageWare Systems of San Diego, displays any photo of the face it recognizes, whether an individual or a group shot, on its touch-screen monitor. Whatever images the cruisegoer selects to buy are then printed on photo paper using digital printers.

The kiosk on the 2,124-passenger Miracle is part of Carnival's multimillion-dollar conversion to digital photography. Six ships have already made the switch, and the entire Carnival fleet of 20 should be converted by year's end.

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