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Technology trends for 2018: Facial recognition technology

Apple’s iPhone X enables us to forget phone passwords in place of selfies. In 2018, we’ll witness more real-world applications of facial recognition tech

The Startups’ team are a modest bunch but we’re quite proud of this ‘we told you so’ moment…

In 2015, we told you that facial motion capture technology would become a big trend and had the potential to be a game-changer for the industry. And we were right.

Enter facial recognition technology; an evolution of facial motion capture.

Back in December 2015, we highlighted that Apple had acquired Faceshift, a specialist in facial motion capture, and we suggested that the tech giant was working on an offering that would merge this intelligence in some way.

Less than two years’ later, in September 2017, the reasons for Faceshift’s acquisition became clear with Apple’s launch of the iPhone X which capitalises on facial recognition technology to transform the way we interact and engage with our phone.

The Face ID technology on the iPhone X allows users to unlock their phone using their face as their password. The same technology also supports the phone’s ‘Animoji’ tool which allows you to map your facial movements and expressions on to a host of emoji-like characters such as a unicorn, fox, or an animated poo.

And Apple isn’t the only brand that wants in on facial recognition technology. In February 2017, Facebook purchased FacioMetrics – software which analyses a person’s facial features and expressions.

While the outcome of this acquisition is yet to be publicly revealed, Facebook has been rolling out new ways for users to share content and interact and it’s thought that the purchase could make for better Facebook filters, stickers and sliders for multimedia.

On the creepier end of the spectrum, some critics have suggested Facebook could be looking to use the software to measure how users react to a comment or post by reading their expressions, blinks, and where they are looking on the page.

What’s more, by combining the approach with deep learning, mobile users could potentially control the Facebook platform with their facial movements.

In 2018, alongside Apple and Facebook – and the likes of Samsung which has also muscled in – you can expect to see more brands enter the market. You'll witness greater instances of facial recognition technology and 3D face-mapping, particularly on Android phones.

Phone companies Qualcomm and Huawei are both targeting facial recognition tech and launching new products over the coming year. For instance, Qualcomm’s new chipset possesses active depth-sensing and supports IR sensors for face-mapping, while Huawei’s Honor View 10 model is looking to duplicate Apple’s ‘Animoji’.

How facial recognition technology works

A form of artificial intelligence, facial recognition technology examines physical features on a person to uniquely distinguish them from all others. There are many systems and formats for facial recognition technology but they all take in data, analyse this data, and then match this data to existing entries in a database of known people’s faces.

In the case of Apple’s Face ID used for iPhone X, it uses a TrueDepth camera system made up of a dot projector, infrared camera, and flood illuminator, to accurately map and recognise a face in the following four steps:

  1. The Face ID projects more than 30,000 invisible infrared dots.
  2. This infrared image and dot pattern is then pushed through neural networks to create a mathematically correct model of your face.
  3. It then sends this data to a secure enclave to confirm a match, while adapting to physical changes in appearance over time.
  4. All saved facial information is protected by the enclave to keep data secure, and all processing is done on the device and not in the cloud.

While Apple has taken steps to protect user information, there have been criticisms of the invasion of privacy that facial recognition technology can bring.

However, Jim Somers, vice president of marketing at SaaS provider LogMeIn, believes facial recognition tech has the power to be a force for good;

“It has been proven that face-to-face interactions improve relationships – both in business and personal life. In 2018 and beyond, we’ll start to see this artificial intelligence play a larger role in the process of relationship building among colleagues, customers and partners.

“Facial recognition technology will be built into remote collaboration tools to read visual cues. It will enable a meeting host to pivot their conversation if needed, and inform more effective post-meeting follow-up.”

Somers predicts that, in 12 months’ time, sales teams may well be adopting ‘meta-meetings’ using facial recognition technology:

“Using facial recognition, a salesperson will know the likelihood that they closed a deal, or an advertising executive will be informed that the idea they are presenting to clients is falling flat. This “meta meeting,” which focuses more on the feeling of the meeting (body language, tone, etc.) rather than the actual conversation, will gather insights and learnings that help the meeting host facilitate better human connections and drive positive results.”

Leon Gauhman, founder of Hive and member of The Supper Club entrepreneur community, also expects to see the mass adoption of facial recognition technology over the coming months and, even, weeks: 

“In a few weeks, Apple will sell tracking projection technology in more devices than it took Microsoft to sell in over a decade with Xbox. And, as our most ubiquitous personal device identifies us by reading our face, it will become acceptable for other things to do that as well.

“Facial tracking billboards, personal shopping experiences and face unlocking vending machines will cease to be the stuff of science fiction and become our new reality. Of course, this will add our faces to the personal data already shared between advertisers, telecoms providers and media agencies.”