August 5, 2011

Facial Recognition Goes Mainstream


Facial recognition applications are no longer just for the military and law enforcement to identify hostiles or criminals, but rather is going mainstream.

The Wall Street Journal (5 August 2011) reports from the bar scene to the television and from vampire gaming to celebrity match-ups, facial recognition software is now part of our everyday technology mix.

Facial recognition is "at a tipping point where some of these face-recognition technologies are not just gimicks, but are becoming useful." Moreover, the technology has become quite good with "frontal face images, the error rate of rejecting a legitimate claim--when the face image and name match-decreased to 0.29% in 2010 from a rate of 79% in 1993."

So here are some examples of how facial recognition is being used:

- SceneTap: Free app for iPhone and Droid "displays real time stats on the local bar scene...shows the number of people at the bar, the male-to-female ratio, and the average age of the patron"--all from facial recognition--this is not bad except for the bartender on a slow night.

- TVs with Viewdle: TV set-top boxes with facial recongition can "identify who is sitting in front of the TV then customize programming accordingly...displaying most recently watched or recorded shows"--can anyone say America's Got Talent!

- Third Eye: Facebook game that based on facial recognition identifies people as either vampires or slayers. Even without the app, I'd bet I'm one of the slayers :-)

- FaceR Celebrity: This iPhone app uses a picture and facial recognition software to determine which celebrities you most closely resemble. For me, it's Sylvester Stallone, all the way--I'm sure of it.

A lot of people are concerned about the privacy implications of facial recognition--collecting and storing images of faces and using it for surveillance and tracking and getting into your knowing what bars or whereever else you are going to.

But apps like SceneTap say they don't collect personal information, nobody sees the video feed, and they don't match the images to photos on the web or Facebook to identify exactly who is entering the bar. This is sounding a little like TSA and the body imaging scanners they use--i.e. don't worry nobody sees your privates! :-)

But perhaps, whether or not they do or don't isn't the point, they could and that is a privacy concern.

Facial recognition technology, even though it is used in gaming, it is not kid's play, and it should be regulated to avoid a society where Internet "big brother" has virtually unlimited capability to track and match each and every facial you!

(Source Photo: here)


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