Design studio Onformative developed a system called Google Faces that uses an algorithm to search Google Maps for areas of land that look like faces. They wanted to explore the psychological phenomenon of pareidolia, which is the tendency for people to detect meaning in vague visual stimuli.
They wrote a face detection algorithm that simulates this tendency as it continuously searches for face-like shapes while iterating above the landscapes of the earth. Onformative writes:
One of the key aspects of this project, is the autonomy of the face searching agent and the amount of data we are investigating. The source of our image data is halfway voluntary provided by Google Maps. Our agent flips through one satellite image after the other, in order to feed the face detection algorithm with landscape samples. The corresponding iteration algorithm steps sequentially along the latitude and longitude of our globe. Once the agent circumnavigated the world, it switches to the next zoom level and starts all over again.
You can check out Google Faces in action in the video below: