By Nicole Villalpando
Every July, as I send my kids to a three-week camp near Waco, I become a crazy person. Each day, I log into the camp’s photo site and begin searching like a mad woman for proof of life. On days, when there might be a happy, smiling photos of one of them, I’m over the moon. On days when I can’t find them anywhere, I’m in the depths of depression and worry. Are they having a good time? Are they participating? Is everyone playing nicely with others? Do they have any friends.
This whole process takes hours. Each day.
Austin-based Waldo Photos wants to change that. This summer, it’s working with camps like T Bar M Camps, Camp Balcones Springs and Still Water Camps to use its facial recognition software to find particular kids’ photos among the hundreds they upload each day and text parents the photos of their children.
Chief operating officer Rodney Rice started Waldo Photos because he was just like me. For the last 20 years, he and his wife would spend hours each night trying to find their three kids’ photos at camp. It was a shame, he says, because it was the only week out of the year when they had time to themselves, and yet, they were spending hours looking for their kids.
“What we’ve tried to do is make it simple,” Rice says.
The camp registers to be part of Waldo Photos and gives each parent a code. Parents then download the app and put in a code that registers them to participate. They then upload a photo of their child and Waldo Photos begins searching for their child’s photos among the hundreds the camp uploads.
Once Waldo Photo’s software finds their child’s photos, it texts to the parents (and grandparents and campers themselves or whomever they designate). As more photos get uploaded, they get more texts of their child. They can then post the photos to the social media of their choice. They can control what other people see, versus the camp posting all their photos on Facebook for all to see. The photo parents upload to Waldo Photos to recognize their child is also secured from public view, Rice says. “Security is at the cornerstone of what we do,” Rice says. “We take it really seriously.”
Parents pay $15 for a one-week camp and $25 for a camp that is two weeks or more. The camp receives 50 percent of that money. Most of the camps have put it toward a scholarship fund.
“It’s a win win for everyone,” Rice says.
The technology took Waldo Photos two years to perfect. Children’s images are more complicated than adults, Rice says, because their facial features aren’t as defined, and often kids have similar features. Their features are also changing, so a recent picture to compare it to is important as well.
The technology, though, has been “crazy unbelievable” when it comes to what it has been able to pull up from the huge pile of photos it searches through. “We were worried about the action shots, the jumping of the cliffs,” Rice says. They were also worried about face painting, too. “It’s been pretty cool to see what people are getting.”
The hope is that after multiple years of pulling kids’ photos parents will also be able to very easily create a memory book for camp without having to go through all the photos again.
For the camps, Waldo Photos is also creating a dashboard where the camp can see how many times each camper was photographed. “They want to know that they are capturing all their campers,” Rice says.
Waldo Photos can also do this for events like family reunions, conventions and weddings. waldophotos.com
Waldo Photos curates a camp’s photos and texts parents their child’s photos.