What is facial recognition technology?
If you’re a fan of crime shows or police dramas, you’ve most likely heard of facial recognition technology. Facial recognition (FR) technology identifies individuals based on specific facial characteristics. In real life, the FBI uses this technology by comparing digital image data to stored records. A software program then analyzes facial features and measures certain characteristics, such as nose length, distance between the eyes, and jaw angle. A comparison of images is then made to create a match.
How accurate is this technology?
This year, MIT declared facial recognition “incredibly powerful – and ever more controversial.” In a September 2017 article from MIT Technology Review, researchers suggest that facial recognition technology may predict sexual orientation in a significant number of people. Stamford University’s Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang conducted research of 130,000 images from dating sites where people share their sexual orientation. According to the article, “The pair’s neural networks can distinguish between gay and heterosexual men in 81 percent of the cases from just a single photo. That compares to an accuracy of 61 percent for a human.” The article went on to explain that when given five images, the accuracy rose to a staggering 91 percent.
How is the technology being used in other countries?
Per a September 2017 article published by Quartz Media, “China is facing a tech boom that’s equal parts inspiring and alarming.” The article shares information on government entities and private companies which use facial recognition technology. For example, in eastern China, customers at a KFC branch in Hangzhou are using the technology to order food. “It works just as one may expect – diners approach a virtual menu, select the item they want to purchase, and then choose ‘facial scan’ as a payment option. Users must input their phone numbers in as an extra layer of verification.” FR technology is also being used in China for travel: in Central China’s Hubei Province, there are over 30 biometric machines equipped with facial recognition systems that check passenger identities and tickets. The technology is also being used by China Southern Airlines whereby passengers download an app and upload a headshot. Comparisons are made between the uploaded photo, the passenger’s real-time image, and a photo ID.
What is the future like for facial recognition technology?
If you were to travel back in time and tell the citizens of a previous era about modern use of facial recognition technology, most people would likely scoff at the idea. However, if someone told me thirty years ago that I would be using my fingerprint to unlock a phone that allows me call anyone on the planet, I might not have believed it either. The world of technology has come a long way, and there is always room for improvement to make life even easier. Expect facial recognition technology to be used in more aspects of our lives in the near future. It’s likely this science will grow on a global basis and be used for a wide variety of duties, such as starting our cars, making purchases, and filing our taxes. It may also be used for more complex undertakings, such as analyzing our overall health and evaluating personal well-being.