Face Recognition: Everything You Need to Know About This New Tech

When the iPhone X hit the market, it shined a new spotlight on a rather old technology that was no more than a fantasy — face recognition. This technology now allows a user to perform myriad functions such as unlocking and making payments on his handheld device.

Though developers are still experimenting with this technology, it is a big bet that it will pay off. It will also pave the way for easier-to-use and more secure biometric technology in the near future.

So, what exactly is face recognition technology? How does it work? And, what does it hold for us in the future? Read on for a quick insight on this much talked about technology.

What is Face Recognition Software?

Facial recognition software maps a woman's face

Image: CC by 0, by teguhjatipras ,via Pixabay

Face recognition is a category of bio-metric software application designed to map the facial features or facial contours of an individual mathematically and store the data as a face print.

This specialized software employs deep learning algorithms to compare a digital image or live capture to the faceprint stored in order to verify and authenticate an individual’s identity.

Facial recognition is currently used mainly for security purposes. This technology now receives significant attention as it holds the potential for a wide range of application in areas such as law enforcement.

When Was Facial Recognition Used First?

Until the launch of iPhone X that brought facial recognition technology to the forefront, most people viewed this groundbreaking tech as something straight out of science fiction. However, over the last decade, facial recognition has not just become viable but also widespread.

In fact, it is difficult to read a newspaper these days without seeing a mention on face recognition. While some may feel that face recognition came out of nowhere, developers have had it in the works for a while.

The birth of face recognition can be dated to the 1960s when Woodrow Wilson Bledsoe developed an innovative system capable of classifying photos of faces by hand with the use of a RAND tablet. Technicians used the device to input vertical and horizontal coordinates with the help of a stylus that radiated electromagnetic pulses.

This system could manually record the coordinates of facial features such as the nose, hairline, mouth, and eyes. Technicians added these metrics into a database. The system could retrieve the stored image from the database that closely resembled the person when provided with a new photograph.

At that time, facial recognition, however, was limited severely by the technology of the times as well as slow computer processing speeds. But a viable biometric was the first step in validating facial recognition.

Developers took facial recognition even further for use by several industries for security purposes. Law enforcement agencies, in particular, have found this system a boon as it helps keep communities safer.

Retailers too, use this application to prevent crime and violence. Airports and mobile phone companies are working with this technology to provide their consumers with several layers of biometric security and peace of mind.

Technologies Used for Facial Recognition

face recognition identifies a group of individuals.

Image: CC BY-SA 2.0, by Steven Lilley, via Flickr

There are several face recognition technologies, such as the adaptive regional blend matching and the matching face detection methodology. Most of these systems work using the various nodal points on a human face.

The values measured against the variable associated with points of an individual’s face aid in uniquely verifying or identifying the person. With this technique, various applications use data captured from different faces and accurately identify target individuals.

Techniques used in facial recognition evolve quickly and newer approaches like 3-D modeling, currently overcome issues and glitches with the existing techniques.

The Face recognition software identifies 80 different nodal points on the face, which measure the depth of the eye sockets, the width of the nose, the shape of the cheekbones, etc. Computers map this data to a digital image of the individual and store it. It serves later as basis for comparison with data that captured from faces in a video or image.

Pros and cons of facial recognition software

Face detection and facial recognition technology identifies shows green boxes so you can tag individuals in an image.

Image: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Beatrice Murch via Wikimedia

This technology has a number of advantages. When compared to the other commonly used biometric techniques, facial recognition doesn’t require physical contact.

Current technology easily captures facial images from a distance and analyze them without having to interact with the person or user. Therefore, no user can imitate another person successfully. This makes it a viable security measure to track time and attendance. It is also is a much cheaper technology since it doesn’t entail as much processing as with other biometric techniques.

Though this technology has its perks, there are certain drawbacks associated with face recognition that engineers worldwide are working to fix. This system can only identify individuals when lighting conditions are favorable.

When the face of the person becomes partially blocked, or there’s insufficient light, it negatively impacts the accuracy of the application.

Why is facial recognition in the news?

While Facial recognition does sound promising, it still raises privacy concerns. So, it rises as a hot topic of debate. One of the chief concerns — like with DNA databases — the government will store these photographs and facial feature files. This means that in due course, they’ll be able to track people. This could compromise privacy and anonymity entirely.

While this advanced technology is fun to use and has several advantages, new privacy problems do crop up. For instance, Find Face, a new smartphone app that allows people to take a person’s photograph and find their social media accounts, is in the news.

Ostensibly, a quick and convenient way to connect with family, friends, and co-workers, the app does invite misuse. Miscreants use this app to expose identities as well as harass others.

These new capabilities also raise concerns about the malicious use of publicly available images. This technology provides powerful tools. However, the law is still ill-equipped to keep pace with these strides in developments.

Why Facebook wants face recognition consent?

Facebook, one of the most popular social networking app, began face matching end users outside Canada in the year 2011. However, they stopped doing so after a series of protests from privacy campaigners and regulators.

According to sources, Facebook is all set to request users for facial recognition consent.

The site will begin requesting European users for consent to use their personal data to power advanced features such as face recognition and certain forms of targeted advertising.

As a part of these changes, Facebook will prompt its many users residing in Europe to decide if they wish to view targeted ads based on relationship, political, and religious details they share on their account or profiles.

Facebook will also ask users for consent to use face recognition technology, to identify people in the images uploaded.

Under the new system, Facebook users will need to click “Accept and Continue” to turn on the face recognition software. Users can confirm this by delving into the “Manage Data Setting” option on their accounts.

The company will refrain from including under-18s in its face-match database. If users do opt for face matching and change their minds later, Facebook will delete the face templates stored. This will make further matching impossible.

The Future of Facial Recognition

Facial technology is the talk of the town and coming of age. The latest iPhone integrates this technology and allows you to unlock it by looking at it. This is just one of the many dozen ways that facial technology will change our daily lives. Soon, we will be using our faces to catch trains, pay for groceries, and even pass through airport security.

In China, people already use their faces to gain access to their office buildings and even to authorize ATM withdrawals. High-end hotels and retail shops in Europe use facial technology in order to identify celebrity customers to render special treatment. Australia isn’t far behind and is in the process of installing a system in their airports. These systems will allow airline passengers to get past security without their passports. These systems are beginning to appear in several U.S airports as well.

Forensics and law enforcement agencies use face recognition to identify suspects and dead bodies. This tech identifies people with no ID.

Retailers will use facial recognition systems like “WatchList as a Service” to prevent shoplifting and violent crimes. This, in turn, will help them protect the interests and safety of their consumers.

The bottom line? Face recognition or facial technology can indeed change the way we do things. However, how to use this technology without invading the privacy of end users remains a debated topic. That said, several industries and agencies across the globe are embracing facial recognition. Bars have begun to use it to catch underage drinkers, and schools are implementing it to take attendance. In the years to come, facial technology systems will reshape our daily lives — hopefully, for the better!

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