The Future of Facial Recognition

Ted Talks blog has delineated seven fascinating facts about the future of facial recognition via Alessandro Acquisti.

To illustrate what he means, he focuses our attention on facial recognition software and a study he conducted in 2010, when about 2.5 billion photos were uploaded to Facebook in a single month, many of them tagged.

For the study, Acquisti 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, using data mining algorithms, the researchers were also able to identify the first five digits of many of these students’ Social Security numbers.

See below for the latest developments in facial recognition technology and where it is going:

1. Identifiable online daters. An important part of online dating is, of course, anonymity. Acquisti and his colleagues analyzed 6,000 online profiles on a dating site in the same US city. Using four cloud computing cores and the facial recognition software PittPatt, they were able to identify 1 in 10 of these anonymous daters, and this technology has improved three-fold since then.

2. Better tools for law enforcement. Acquisti said that the increasing resolution of photos will help (hello, gigapixel!), as will the improved computational capabilities of computers and the ever-expanding mountain of data available from social networks. In a fascinating article via Yahoo, Paul Schuepp of the company Animetrics shares a 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 the software can boost identification rates from 35 percent to 85%.

3. Full body recognition?  In a study published this month in Psychological Science, Allyson 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.

4. A face scan for your phone.  Face Unlock” is a feature that allows you to unlock Android smartphones using your “faceprint,” i.e. a map of the unique structure of your face.

5. Facial recognition as advertising.  In 2012, an interactive ad for Choice for Girls was launched at bus stops 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 statistics on a subject.

6. Shattered Glass. As Acquisti notes in his talk, the fact that someone’s face can be used to find out private information is especially disconcerting given Google Glass’ emergence on the scene. In June, US lawmakers questioned Google about the privacy implications of the device and, in response, Google stressed that they “won’t be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time.”

7. 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? At a store, rather than paying with cash or a credit card, you give a “meaningful nod” to a scanner to make a purchase.

Everyday millions of Americans (and people all over the world) willingly offer up our personal information online without thinking too much about it. Alessandro Acquisti:Explains whey privacy is important  “any personal information can become sensitive information.

Acquisti’s  Ted Talk on how employers judge the information they find out about potential employees online

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2 responses to “The Future of Facial Recognition”

  1. catharine says:

    Have you ever thought about a facial expression program for people with post traumatic stress? I have been diagnosed as having PTS and have always been able to read people, just wasnt able to put it into words and not nec understand how I knew some things. When I started looking into nonverbal communications esp micro expressions, I felt more at peace and an increase of confidence making sense of what I knew but didnt know how I knew.
    Just a thought.

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