Darpa Wants to Build an Image Search Engine out of DNA

WIRED | 1/24/2018 | Megan Molteni
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Most people use Google's search-by-image feature to either look for copyright infringement, or for shopping. See some shoes you like on a frenemy's Instagram? Search will pull up all the matching images on the web, including from sites that will sell you the same pair. In order to do that, Google’s computer vision algorithms had to be trained to extract identifying features like colors, textures, and shapes from a vast catalogue of images. Luis Ceze, a computer scientist at the University of Washington, wants to encode that same process directly in DNA, making the molecules themselves carry out that computer vision work. And he wants to do it using your photos.

On Wednesday, Ceze’s team at UW launched a social media campaign to collect 10,000 images from around the world and preserve their pixels in the As, Ts, Cs and Gs that make up the building blocks of life. They’ve done this sort of thing before; in 2016 they encoded an entire OK Go music video—setting the record for most amount of data stored in DNA. But this time they decided to crowdsource the data, building a website where people can submit photos and encouraging people to share their images on social media with the hashtag #MemoriesInDNA. “DNA can last thousands of years,” says Ceze. “So this is essentially a time capsule. What do you want to preserve forever?”

UW - MemoriesInDNA - Campaign - Bit - Gimmick

UW’s #MemoriesInDNA campaign might be a bit of a gimmick (there are plenty of available, high-quality image databases on which to train a molecular search engine). But the science behind it is a very real attempt to upend the last six decades of computing. DNA-based storage has so far been good only for that: encoding pixels and locking them up in freeze-dried strands invisible to the human eye. So far, no one’s figured...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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