TOM GILBERT/ Tulsa World Magazine

A mathematician and computer scientist at the Panoramic Research lab in Palo Alto, California, Woodrow Bledsoe began working on facial recognition technology in 1964 with funding from an intelligence agency that he never identified.

The results, however, weren’t stellar. Computers needed another three or four decades to make facial recognition practical. But today’s sophisticated technology still uses Bledsoe’s simple idea.

Every face has “landmarks” that in some ways make all of us look the same. Two eyes. A nose. Lips. Yet, all these landmarks come together in subtly different ways to make every face unique, even between so-called identical twins.

Bledsoe turned facial landmarks into nodal points on a grid that could be used to map a face by measuring the distance between the eyes, the width of the nose, the length of a jaw bone and other features.

Early facial recognition systems used 21 nodal points, while a modern iPhone can use about 80. But the principle remains the same.

Cities have faces, too. And they include landmarks that in some ways make every city look the same.

Every city has historic architecture. Every city has colorful streets and locally owned shops and trendy chefs. Yet, all these landmarks come together in subtly different ways that make each city unique.

This issue of Tulsa World Magazine is trying to identify some nodal points to help you see and appreciate the unique face of our community. It’s hardly an exhaustive list of what is special about Tulsa. That would take many thousands of pages. But part of Bledsoe’s genius was that he never tried to map an entire face, just enough landmarks to understand how that face is different from all others.

Any other city could come up with a list similar to the Tulsa 50 because every city has must-try desserts and must-see architecture. But no other city could come up with THIS list.

Take a good look. Tulsa is like no other place on Earth. And personally, I think it’s beautiful.

Michael Overall



Twitter: @MichaelOverall2