Ecuador’s new voice and facial recognition system

Facial and voice recognition systems have become more prevalent over the years, but never before has an entire country taken a stand on the issue. Until now.

Ecuador is now the first country in the world to implement a countrywide biometric identification system using voice and facial recognition. In a partnership with the Speech Technology Center (STC) in Russia, the country will use these identification technologies in the war on crime.

The system in place includes a forensic database with photographs and recordings that can be matched up against any evidence in criminal investigations, by comparing samples an coming up with possible matches.

And whereas there are currently ways criminals can disguise their faces, disguising a voice is much more difficult, with a 97% accuracy in matching and identifying. Meanwhile, the two technologies used together equal a nearly infallible success rate.

Now with Ecuador on board, it will be interesting if other countries seek to have similar systems of their own in place.

Facial recognition software in use

G20 Summit 2014 Security to Use Facial Recognition Technology

The Herald Sun of Australia reports that the Queensland Police Service (QPS) is in negotiations to begin using special facial recognition software as the state prepares to host the G20 Summit in 2014.

Facial recognition software in use
Faces on CCTV may be subject to facial recognition technology for G20 Summit in Brisbane 2014. PIC: Jono Searle, Courtesy of The Herald Sun.
Police would be able to compare images taken over CCTV or with a phone against mugshots in a database and return high probability matches in under one second. They view the technology as essential to combat criminal and terrorist networks.

Meanwhile, civil libertarians have raised concerns that the databases will be scraped from Facebook and other sources with no framework in place to prevent abuse.  They are calling for a national data commissioner with the power to investigate and prosecute to address misuse or loss of personal data.

The database is currently holding between 700,000 and 1,000,000 mugshots. QPS will begin mobile data trials in 2013 using iPhones and iPads to capture faces for identification.

Given the difficulty of obtaining fingerprints, DNA and other biometrics, faces are seen as vital to tracking terrorist threats. The system is expected to be able to handle any variation in facial expression. Moreover, it can return matches even when a person looks away, turns their head sideways 60 degrees, or tilts it up or down by 20 degrees.

With this kind of robust capability, what would a facial recognition system make possible in your business? Go ahead and leave your comment below.

This blog is sponsored by ImageGraphicsVideo, a company offering custom ComputerVision Software Development Services

Plan to speed up border crossings in Hong Kong

Courtesy South China Morning News, Photo: Edward Wong

Phila Siu writing for The South China Morning Post reports that the Immigration Department in Hong Kong is seeking approval to add face recognition to fingerprint-checking of incoming visitors.

The new technology is part of a revamp of systems at control points expected to speed up processing time.

Automated border clearance has become fairly mature as Australia, Britain, Germany and Portugal have adopted similar facial recognition technologies.

The revamp is in anticipation of the proportion of travelers entering Hong Kong who rely on e-travel documents rising from 60% in 2016 to 90% by 2020.

The department expects this will relieve the need for added stations and free up that manpower for other duties. For more info about projected costs and the debate swirling over how this technology should be used, see the original article here.

With a facial recognition technology custom designed for your business, what changes in workflow would you envision? Add your comment below.

This blog is sponsored by ImageGraphicsVideo, a company offering ComputerVision Software Development Services

New PayPal system allows users to make in-store purchases more easily

Photo courtesy of The Sunday Telegraph
Photo courtesy of The Sunday Telegraph

Smartphones have been revolutionizing the way we go about our lives bit by bit. And now, your iPhone or Android will soon be standing in for cash and cards if you so choose — at least if you live in Australia.

New technology, unveiled earlier this month by PayPal, allows users to make transactions in select stores without all the fanfare and hassle that can accompany it.

What users do is check into the store, much like one would with a FourSquare application. They are able to place orders and use their PayPal accounts to buy things. Meanwhile, business owners see a notice that shows the name an photo ID of the checked-in customer, in order to verify the security of the application, and protect against the possibility of stolen phones.

What kinds of advantages and disadvantages are associated with this system? How long before it will become commonplace?

This blog is sponsored by ImageGraphicsVideo, a company offering ComputerVision Software Development Services.

Infrared camera aimed at individuals drunk in public

Photo courtesy of flickr user _sml

Although talk of facial recognition has been aimed at finding people guilty of alleged crimes or recognizing individuals for industry-related purposes, a new use has been found for this technology: identifying drunk people.

A paper published in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics discusses a new infrared-camera algorithm developed at the University of Patras in Greece. It focuses on the heat dispersion on the faces of people in a crowd, paying attention to where blood vessels dilate at the skin’s surface. Drunk individuals tend to have more heat on their noses and less on their foreheads, information that could be beneficial to law enforcement officers in the field who are trying to detect from afar whether or not someone is under the influence of alcohol.

This blog is sponsored by ImageGraphicsVideo, a company offering ComputerVision Software Development Services.

Facial recognition software used to track presidential candidates’ emotions during debates

Image courtesy of

Purdue University professor Chris Kowal is using facial recognition software to track the emotions of President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney in real time during the debates. Dr. Kowal wants to see if there is a clear relationship between his findings and voters’ perceptions.

Universal emotions like happiness, fear, surprise, and others are easily detected by the facial recognition software as it maps the muscles of the face and their movement.

And since an emotional connection is essential to making sales, promoting brands, and winning over undecided voters, the applications for facial recognition software in marketing research are unlimited.

Dr. Kowal suggests that the ability of facial recognition software to track emotions alongside fact checking could be next fascinating area of research.

This blog is sponsored by ImageGraphicsVideo, a company offering ComputerVision Software Development Services.

New Toyota car concept makes use of facial recognition

Photo courtesy of Yoshikazu Tsuno

Kinect has been used for a variety of products and inventions since the system first became available to public last year. But would you trust a car that relies on Kinect software to perform many of its basic functions?

That’s exactly what the Smart INSECT (which stands for Information Network Social Electricity City Transporter), Toyota’s newest electric-powered car concept, does. With the use of facial recognition and motion sensors, the car is capable of recognizing its owner, as well as predicting and analyzing movements of the driver. Some examples of this include a greeting message being displayed when the owner approaches the car, as well as doors opening when the driver needs to enter or exit the vehicle. It can also be accessed remotely from a smartphone in order to lock/unlock the doors and begin the air conditioning system.

Would you buy a car like this if it were available?

This blog is sponsored by ImageGraphicsVideo, a company offering ComputerVision Software Development Services.

Punch in and out with facial recognition

Wirelesstimeclock, a well-known seller of various time clocks for use in the workplace, has already come out with such innovative clocks as ones requiring biometric fingerprints.

These clocks not only eliminate the old-fashioned standard of “punching in” and “punching out,” but are also a way to ensure that the proper employee is clocking in, and that workplace fraud isn’t occurring.

Adding to its line of forward-thinking time clock systems, Wirelesstimeclock unveiled another new clock last month. The company’s Facial Recognition Clock touts itself as the most inexpensive of its breed in the U.S., and allows employees to punch in and out either through facial recognition, RFID badge, or pin. Not only that, but employees have access to the system via smartphone, where they can view the log and ensure that the hours they worked were properly recorded.

Computers trained to recognize emotions

While humans have always been better at detecting and responding to emotions than computers, new research done at MIT is showing that, in some cases, computers are taking the lead over their human counterparts.

The study focuses on the act of smiling, honing in on the different reasons people smile, whether out of happiness and delight, or pure frustration. And using the results from the study for a large sample of people, researchers on this project have fed information to computers, which are actually better at telling the different types of smiles apart.

Experiments involved asking participants to act out expressions associated with specific emotions, which were recorded by a webcam. They then had to fill out a purposely-frustrating form or watch a video made to evoke feelings of delight, and their reactions were recorded as well.

One of the most interesting findings was that the vast majority of those asked to feign frustration did not smile in their forced attempts, but upon experiencing frustration in an unprompted situation, they did. Additionally, there is a difference in the way people smile; those who are delighted tend to have a gradual build-up to the smile, whereas frustrated smiles are quick and fleeting.

The main aim of this study is to help unravel the mysteries of emotions. In particular, those affected by autism may have a difficult time interpreting emotions; while a smile is viewed as a positive thing, this study demonstrates that isn’t always the case. Additionally, those who are public speakers or figures in the spotlight might benefit from better understanding the timing in reactions and how the slightest difference in facial emotions can be interpreted differently.

Facial Recognition provides insight to famous paintings

Anyone who has been to art museums is familiar with the predicament that art historians have been facing for hundreds of years: identifying the individuals in paintings.

But now, thanks to new funding awarded to University of California at Riverside, this university will be able to put facial recognition technology to use in an attempt to help unlock the mystery of some of the more famous pieces of art.

Image courtesy of Corbis

The idea for the project was inspired by police and forensic television shows, where investigators used computer vision technology to recognize and track down faces of mystery persons. Currently, this kind of technology measures what is known as key features, such as the distance between eyes or someone’s mouth and nose.

For the new project, which will begin next month, the selected team will examine the death masks of people whose identities are known, and compare them to various pieces of artwork, such as portraits and sculpted busts. Assuming this works on the known individuals and their corresponding faces in artwork, the technology can then be applied to art subjects who are unknown, with hopes of any number of them somehow matching up with the database of known faces outside of the art realm.

One thing to consider is that some people may have aged, but just as there is technology to imagine how a kidnapped child might develop and change as he or she ages, so this same kind of algorithm will be applied to art.

Of course, there are plenty of obstacles standing in the way. The most obvious is that art is merely two-dimensional. Additionally, many artists have been known to render their subjects differently, either because of artistic interpretation or due to an attempt to flatter the subject. But even so, this project is the first step in the direction of attempting to crack the code of who the subjects in some of the more famous works of art truly are.