Determining familial matches with Facial Recognition

Photo courtesy of UCF
Photo courtesy of UCF

Last month, researchers at the University of Central Florida presented a new facial recognition tool at the IEEE Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Columbus, Ohio. 

While there is no shortage of facial recognition tools used by companies and governments the world over, this one is unique in that its aim is to unite or reunite children with their biological parents.

The university’s Center for Research in Computer Vision initially got to work by creating a database of more than 10,000 images of famous people–such as politicians and celebrities–and their children.

It works by using a specially designed algorithm that breaks the face down into sections, and using various facial parts as comparisons; they are then sorted according to which matches are the most likely.

Though software for this purpose already exists, this tool was anywhere from 3 to 10 percent better than those programs, and it naturally surpasses the recognition capabilities of humans, who base their decisions on appearance rather than the actual science of it. It also reaffirmed the fact that sons resemble their fathers more than their mothers, and daughters resemble their mothers more than their fathers.

What other ways could this tool be useful?

Residents enter their buildings using Facial Recognition

Image courtesy of FST21
Image courtesy of FST21

Apartment living has its pros and cons, but one thing many renters can relate to is having to call a locksmith and pay high fees for replacing lost or forgotten keys. However, residents at Manhattan’s Knickerbocker Village don’t have to worry about that.

The 12-building complex, home to 1,600 apartments, recently installed the FST21 SafeRise system.

How it works is that residents are photographed, with a series of body measurements and movements also recorded. This information is then stored in a system that recognizes the residents when they approach an entrance, immediately allowing them to enter.

In addition to the facial recognition technology, the system also includes a ‘digital doorman’ that allows visitors to contract residents via an intercom, or contact the security desk to ask permission to enter.

What are your thoughts on this technology? Would you feel safer knowing your building used facial recognition?

Makeup can mask facial recognition

004795_10_fig2As advancements in facial recognition are made, many people have become increasingly worried about protecting or maintaining their privacy. And while there are ways to hide or obscure a face, it has been thought by many that makeup wasn’t enough to fool that cameras.

However, researchers in Michigan and West Virginia have set out to disprove such an idea, demonstrating how makeup actually can change the appearance of an individual. While the way someone’s head is held, the expressions he or she may make, and the lighting don’t confuse computers, things such as natural aging or face-altering methods like plastic surgery can. Now, makeup can be added to the list.

This is because makeup can change the shape and texture of a face, by playing natural contours of the face up or down, changing the appearance of the quality and size of certain features, and even camouflaging identifying marks, including scars, birth marks, moles, or tattoos. Of course not a simple application of makeup is enough to do the rick, but heavy layers of makeup can be.

To find out more about this study and its aims, refer to an article on the subject that describes it in further detail.

Scramble Face service geared toward Internet users looking to protect their online presence

In a world with new computer vision-related software being introduced regularly, it’s no surprise that many consumers feel as though there is nothing they can do to protect themselves against an unwanted invasion of privacy.

However, just as companies come out with new facial recognition technology and algorithm-based programs, there are other companies that are helping customers gain a bit more control over how much of a presence they have on the web.

One example is VersusMedia, a Los Angeles-based company which launched Scramble Face in March, with a product targeted toward users wanting to locate and remove pictures of themselves that have been posted or indexed across the internet.

The premise is that in a world where potential employers and educators research applicants ahead of time, users should have some control over the content that appears on the Internet, be it something they posted or something that someone else uploaded.

Users who register with Scramble Face will upload pictures, and then pay for a 90-day period. During this time, the program continually scans the Internet for photos matching the individual, and provides a website name and number of pictures matched on each particular site.

What remains to be seen is whether the site helps with the removal process of identified photos, or simply makes users aware of images that exist, leaving them to deal with it on their own.

Accessing apps with facial recognition.

fastaccess-anywhereInternet privacy and security are important issues for just about everyone, and although creating strong passwords is a step toward keeping outsiders out of online accounts, they can still be hacked.

Companies like Sensible Vision are aware of this and have taken steps to make users feel safer. FastAccess Anywhere is the company’s newest app, available for Apple products and Androids. It relies on facial recognition technology as a replacement for passwords, logging users into sites and applications by recognizing their faces.

The idea was born out of the acknowledgement that not only is it difficult to remember passwords to various accounts, but also in recognition of how it’s not entirely easy to type in passwords on small touch screens.

In addition to facial recognition, the app also includes a “secret shape” that is chosen by the user, and used as a means of two-step verification. Users of Android devices are able to set permissions for apps of their choice so that privacy in email, banking, and social media is preserved, while gaming is still accessible by other uses the phone or device.

Facial recognition aids immigration crackdown in Australia

Image courtesy of australiantest.com
Image courtesy of australiantest.com

Illegal workers seem to be a given in various industries around the world, but now Australia has begun cracking own on those looking to exploit the system. How? With computer vision, of course.

Immigration officials in the land down under are using facial recognition software to identify people who have either created new identities or stolen those of legitimate persons in order to obtain employment.

In a recent raid on farm workers, six illegal persons were detained for over-staying their visas and working. This kind of capture not only causes problems for the illegal person, but also for the employers, who can be charges up to $66,000 for each illegal worker. Specific detail about what kind of programs are being used was not provided, but could entail collaborating with state and federal agency databases in Australia and abroad.

 

Technology used to recognize drivers and customize their experiences.

Imagine if your car could recognize you as its driver and act accordingly, customizing your driving experience.

With a new product designed by Delphi, this exact technology could be coming to your own car.

According to the company, the technology in question “uses a light source and camera to project a line pattern onto the subject’s face. The camera then ‘sees’ and records the subject’s two-dimensional (2D) facial fingerprint, comparing that image to a database of stored 2D facial fingerprints for a possible match. A ‘positive’ match with the proper stored image means the person is recognized. Recognition then triggers an action, for example, approval of a credit sale or unlocking of a door.”

Other possible uses for this are that the vehicle remembers settings, such as where the seat is positioned, what station the driver listens to, and how warm or cold the temperature should be.

However, although the technology was initially created for vehicles, it has other practical applications. Theoretically, any kind of security system requiring visual identification could benefit from this technology. What ways do you envision it being used?

Infrared LED Glasses Help Evade Facial Recognition

How to Keep Your Face Private in Public

If walking in public and having your mug wind up in the facial recognition database of a business or government bugs you, take heart… it could be easier than you think to foil the technology and maintain your anonymity.

Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku.com reports on a Japanese researcher, Isao Echizen who, last December, demonstrated a pair of glasses designed to prevent digital cameras from capturing usable facial images by creating severe glare around the eyes and nose that is invisible to the human eye.

Infrared LED Glasses Help Evade Facial Recognition
Isao Echizen’s Infrared LED Glasses for Evading Facial Recongition Courtesy of Kotaku.com

The glasses create the glare using 11 infrared LED lights. In turn, facial recognition software is rendered useless because the area around the eyes and nose is one of the most significant in identifying a person.

While the glasses are bulky prototypes at this point, miniaturization and a makeover could make them the epitome of incognito fashion.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for simpler solutions, plain sunglasses can go a long way to protecting your likeness.

In September 2010, Forbes staff writer Andy Greenberg reported on Alex Kilpatrick’s then upcoming presentation at the Web 2.0 Conference in New York on evading positive identification by facial recognition software.

Kilpatrick, a serial software entrepreneur in the facial recognition space, demonstrated how to defeat a widely used facial recognition algorithm known as Eiegenfaces using an off the shelf software that incorporates it called Neurotechnology.

The key to successfully thwarting identification was to avoid symmetry in facial appearance such as hair over one eye or the extreme makeup tactics shown in the bottom row of the image below.

Effectiveness of Different Techniques to Avoid Facial Recognition
Effectiveness of Different Techniques to Avoid Facial Recognition Courtesy of Forbes.com

Because the area around the eyes and nose is so important from the software’s point of view, adding or removing facial hair did little to lower Kilpatrick’s own recognizability.

In the end, a cheap pair of sunglasses was the most convenient, foolproof approach.

Now, Echizen’s infrared LED glasses, takes this game of cat and mouse up a notch.

What do you think?

Google Glasses

Will Object Recognition Drive Growth or Slash Jobs?

As we enter 2013, prognostications abound regarding object recognition technology and its likely impact on the economy, jobs and the human condition.

Some paint a grim picture of human obsolescence and slow growth. Others, a Utopian image of humans and machines extending each other’s capabilities that unlocks new economic vistas for the benefit of all.

In the less sanguine camp is Nobel Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman who takes issue with the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) seemingly pat assumption that long term growth will occur at about the same rates we’ve seen for the past few decades.

Google Glasses
Google Glasses Courtesy of Google, Inc.
On the more optimistic side is Bianca Bosker, Executive Tech Editor for the Huffington Post. She does a masterful job synthesizing a wide array of sources to make a balanced case.

Writing in the New York Times, Krugman points to Robert Gordon of Northwestern University and his contention that the age of growth that began in the late 1700s may be drawing to a close. He sees Gordon’s reasoning as a useful basis for doubting the CBO’s projections, however, Krugman does not agree with Gordon.

Gordon contends that growth has occurred unevenly owing to several discrete industrial revolutions that took us to the next level of major growth. The first was the steam engine. The second was the internal combustion engine, electrification and chemical engineering. The third is the information age and the Internet where smart machines are the payoff for fewer people than was the case in the second revolution.

Krugman posits that machines with ever-improving artificial intelligence and object recognition capabilities will likely fuel higher productivity and economic growth. He even states it would be “all too easy” to fear that smart machines will bring about the mass obsolescence of American workers.

If so, is Krugman saying the CBO’s long term projections are too conservative? Could this be a silver lining of sorts? He then asks the more unsettling question, “Who will benefit from this growth?”

Krugman promises in a future column to take up why the conventional wisdom underpinning long run budget projections is “all wrong.” And when he does, we should get a clearer view of his take on the roles object recognition, machine learning and human beings will play in the economy of tomorrow.

Bosker, in striking a balance between human obsolescence and human empowerment, seconds Kevin Kelly’s prediction in Wired that “robo surgeons” and “nannybots” will surely take over human jobs.

She then explores Google’s Project Glass as an example of wearable computers soon to arrive that observe and record our surroundings like an add-on brain.

Bosker quotes AI researcher Rod Furlan who speculates that Google Glass could soon help us find misplaced car keys. She predicts facial recognition will help us remember people’s names as soon as they come into view and bypass a potentially awkward encounter. And that object recognition could encourage us to skip an indulgent food we’d best not eat.

Ultimately, Bosker holds that big data married with gut instinct offers us an opportunity to stake out new professions as laid out by New York Times writer, Steve Lohr in his story, “Sure, Big Data Is Great. But So Is Intuition.” 

So what’s your gut telling you? As wearable computers become more affordable, how do you see them revolutionizing your business?