Last Call: All The Things My Phone Thinks Are Chocolate

Google Photos is a powerful photo sharing and storage service. I find it user-friendly enough, but I've owned a smartphone for six years now, and when I'm looking for a photo from way back when, it can be hard to land on what I'm looking for. (For instance, when exactly did I decide to finally take a picture of that old recipe card at my parents' house? What year did I screenshot a friend's childhood dance recital photo from Facebook for future blackmail purposes?) These days, Google Photos has a pretty impressive search function, one that relies on a mighty algorithm capable of scanning photos for recognizable faces or text, and this can make it surprisingly simple to dig up whatever you seek. Other times, though, certain search terms illustrate the limitations of this "smart" photo function. And nothing confounds Google quite like food.

A search for "chocolate," for example, yields a wide array of results, and you can almost see the algorithm "thinking" in real time. Even when it's way off, it's usually clear why it detected chocolate where there was none. In 2014, I took a photo of a relative's collection of miniature jeweled figurines, and yes, in all fairness, they look like something that might show up in a Food Network luxury cupcake competition. Here's everything else Google erroneously listed as "chocolate" in my camera roll:

  • A sample pot of face lotion from Birchbox
  • A dessert plate painted to look like a house
  • An apple cinnamon bundt cake
  • A plate of fruit set atop a mirror
  • My dog, asleep on a pile of dirty laundry
  • My dog's chewed-up Kong (black)
  • My dog's chewed-up ball (neon orange)
  • A carton of almond milk
  • A cat asleep in a thrift store display case
  • A vintage Kodak slide sorter
  • A bacon egg and cheese bagel
  • My dog, asleep on a brown blanket
  • Me holding a ceramic bust of an Italian friar
  • A Bavarian pretzel
  • A bunch of licorice
  • These things
  • Zombie Skittles 
  • All in all, not too bad. A lot of items in the above list are edible, at least. And the majority of items Google turned up really were chocolate, or pictures of handwritten grocery lists with the word "chocolate" on them, the latter of which is a teeny bit unsettling, but impressive all the same. In any case, I think I've found my new favorite activity: whenever Instagram or Twitter get too annoying, I can always turn to my photo roll and play "break the algorithm."

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