Facial Recognition (FR) is giving a new meaning to the security surveillance world nowadays. Though, its logical availability is since 2009, the advantages of its usage are coming into light now. But to our surprise its future dominance in different verticals was predicted way back in 2010, when a research was conducted on it.
In the said year, Alessandro Acquisti from Carnegie Mellon University Cylab focused his attention on facial recognition software. He and his team conducted a study, where about 2.5 billion photos were uploaded to Facebook in a single month, many of them tagged. For the study, Alessandro and his fellow researchers snapped photos of students on a college campus and found that more than 30% of them were identifiable by off-the shelf facial recognition software. From there, by using data mining algorithms, the researchers were also able to identify the first five digits of many of these students’ social security numbers.
To know more on where this technology is heading, please take a closer look at the following paragraphs, which gives the different usage instances of this technology.
Identifiable online daters – An important part of online dating is, obviously being anonymous. People can never know who the real person is until they come face to face. So, you can make up a screen name in order to keep the surprise element intact and to avoid creepers from showing up at your office uninvited. In the study made in 2010 by Alessandro with the name “Privacy in the age of augmented reality” he and his fellow researchers analyzed 6000 online profiles on a dating site in the same US city. By using four cloud computing cores and facial recognition, they were able to identify 1 in 10 of these anonymous daters. Remember this technology has improved three-fold since then.
Better tools for law enforcement – After the Boston Marathon bombing, the police commissioner of Boston said that the facial recognition software had not helped them identify Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, despite the fact that the two were in public record database and were pictured at the scene in disguise. Experts such as Acquisti said that the difficulties can be conquered by using increased resolution of photos taken from megapixel and if possible Gigapixel cameras. But to achieve the best results improved computational capabilities of computers and the ever-expanding mountain of data available from social networks has to be integrated. In a fascinating article in Yahoo, pal Schuepp of the company Animetrics shares more specific advance- software that turns 2D images into a simulated 3D model of a person’s face. In a single second, it can turn an unidentifiable partial snapshot into a very identifiable headshot. He claims that the software can boost identification rates from 35% to 85% if properly used. (Hope so)
Full Body recognition – Allyson Rice of the University of Texas at Dallas has an idea of how facial recognition software could become even more accurate for law enforcement purposes. In a study published last year in Psychological Science, Rice and her fellow researchers asked college students to discern whether two photos- which had stumped facial recognition software were indeed of the same person. They used eye-tracking equipment to discern how the participants were making the call. In the end, they found that students were far more accurate in their answers when the face and body of the subject was shown. And while the participants reported judging based on facial features, their eyes were spending more time examining body build, stance and other body features. Rice feels that psychologists and computer scientists have concentrated almost exclusively on the role of the face in person recognition. But he added that his research has also showed that the body can also provide important and useful information for identifying a person.
Face Scan for phone – You might be aware of “Face unlock” which is a feature that allows you to unlock Android smart phones using your face print i.e a map of the unique structure of your face. This is just the beginning of having a face recognition security measure. In June last year, there was a media buzz, that Google patented a technology that would turn goofy facial expressions such as a wink, a scrunched nose, a smile, a struck out tongue into a code to unlock devices. In early 2015, Facebook announced that it will offer the ability to its users to sign-in through their face in future with the help of it’s newly acquired Israeli firm face.com software.
Facial recognition as promotion – Pretty soon facial recognition can be used to influence what you buy? In 2012, an interactive ad for Choice for Girls was launched at bus tops in London. These billboards were able to scan passersby, judge their gender and show them appropriate content. Girls and women got a video, while boys and men got stats on a subject. Though this ad was for good cause, it couldn’t live up and so was taken down. But this technology will no doubt expand and could allow corporations and organizations to tap into the personal lives of their populace in unpredictable ways. Personalized ads as we walk down the street, like in the scene of Minority Report, can be repeated. Infact Gucci brand started to test this technology outside one of its showrooms of New York in early 2014. But due to privacy concerns and some objections from the passersby had to be pulled down within 8 hours of its release. But Acquisti has a viewpoint that this way of promotion has a potential to be used for more subtle applications- like the ads that can identify us and our favorite two friends on facebook. From there, it’s a snap to create a composite image of a person who’ll start in an ad targeted just to us. Another instance where FR may show its prominence is in the following case where establishments like Wallmart are using technology such as Facedeals to capture its consumers walking into an establishment, mining their facebook likes and text messages and creating a deal exclusively for them. Though, Wallmart offered this deal only for thanksgiving last year, it was a definite hit.
Shattered Glass of Google – as Acquisti notes in his talk, the fact that someone’s face can be used to find out private info is especially disconcerting given Google Glass emergence on the scene. In June 2014, US lawmakers questioned Google about the privacy implications of the device and in response, Google stressed out that they won’t be approving any facial recognition glassware at this time. But what if the user decides to use it? In July, Stephen Balaban announced to NPR and the world that he had hacked glass in order to give it facial recognition powers. He added that his new build is an alternative operating system that runs on glass but is not controlled by Google. In the same year, Michael DiGiovanni created a program called WINKY for glass that let’s the wearer take a photo with a wink, rather than using the voice command.
Your face as currency – In July, a Finnish company called Uniqul released a video of a project in the works, a pay-by-face authentication system. The idea was to pay by face than by cash or credit card. A Huffington post article described this new tech, and also gives a peak at the Millennial ATM, which uses facial recognition as its primary security method.
Subsequently, a point to be noted over here is that facial recognition is evolving rapidly. It is not only driving the surveillance world, but is also pegging its roots into other verticals.