Since the new iPhone X was released, everyone’s been talking about the technology behind facial recognition. A lot of major companies are investing it its potential and future opportunities, from security to payments to travel.
How the technology works
Facial recognition is based on a series of algorithms. The software identifies a face in the frame, and then makes a selection based on age and physical traits. To increase its reliability, researchers use demographic data: and software that contains records of personal data, race and gender would certainly improve its performance
The million dollar question is: does it work? To find out, Wired enlisted some of Hollywood’s top makeup artists to create silicone masks to see if they could fool the iPhone X. Every one of them failed. This surprising result shows that the technology is already highly evolved.
Police and hospitals: everyday facial recognition
In the field of diagnostics, doctors have started to use facial recognition to identify rare genetic disorders. With a bit more development, it’s hoped that the technology can one day identify even the most common conditions such as autism. In the United States, one out of every 4 police departments already have this technology. Just imagine the possibilities for missing persons. And during the last Remembrance Sunday ceremony — the 99th anniversary of the end of the first world war — British intelligence used automated video cameras for facial recognition of possible terrorists.
Alibaba’s “Smile to pay”
In the Chinese city of Hangzhou, the giant Alibaba has redefined the concept of a happy meal. To launch a new feature on the Chinese market, Jack Ma stuck an alliance with the fast food chain KFC. The result is a service that lets customers pay for their food without reaching for their wallet: they just need to place their order with one of the self-service screens, and a camera enabled with 3D facial recognition will verify the buyer’s identity. The technology will only be available for registered Alipay users – Alibaba’s platform for online and mobile payments. The president of Yum China (of which KFC is a subsidiary company) stated that the concept of the store is aimed at “young, digital customers who are more inclined to embrace innovation and new ideas.” In addition, adding facial recognition to the extensive video surveillance network is an excellent defense against theft.
Beijing’s KFC anticipates your tastes and orders for you
Facial recognition software that can anticipate a customer’s taste and what they might order – this is what KFC is experiementing with, alongside Baidu, the Chinese Google. The program is based on the customer’s characteristics (age, gender, facial features and mood) and especially what they eat. The computer can memorize the user’s most recent meal, and suggest similar menus, or at least get closer to their preferences.
Amazon Go and Whole Foods: how they’ll revolutionize grocery shopping
Amazon Go’s ambitious goal is to transform the buying experience, eliminating lines at the checkout and saving time for their customers. The system lets buyers grab their groceries and walk right out of the store. Thanks to facial recognition, their credit card can be automatically charged. Jeff Bezos, who acquired Whole Foods a few months back, outlined the plan for Amazon Go: open hundreds of supermarkets on a global scale. For now, he’ll fine-tune the technology in Seattle to eliminate the problems that are popping up, including facial recognition in groups of people, figuring out which member of a couple should be charged, and how to identify kids who’ve eaten something while in the store.
The competition, Alibaba, has already opened a store called Tao Cafe using the same concept (there are no cash registers or staff, and it’s all automated). In this case too, products are automatically charged to a credit card connected to the Alipay app. However, people are subject to phone checks and facial recognition when they enter and exit the superstore.
Yoti, the facial recognition for supermarkets
Yoti is a startup that was set up by entrepreneurs Robin Tombs and Noel Hayden, and already has 180 employees. The facial recognition they’ve created is noted for its speed and precision, and it’s this combination that led to a collaboration with NCR, the most important producer of automatic checkouts in the world. A few days ago, the Telegraph announced that Yoti will debut in 2 branches of the UK’s largest supermarkets, though their names haven’t yet been revealed. The system will require customers to pre-register with the Yoti app, take a selfie and scan their passport or driver’s license. Introducing facial recognition will streamline not only the queue, but also the work for employees. They won’t need to check a customer’s age every time someone buys beer.
Will we be able to travel without passports?
The smart gates at one Middle Eastern airport may be revolutionizing one major mainstay of international travel — the need for a passport. Electronic passenger gates had already been introduced in Dubai, but even bigger news was announced recently: a tunnel equipped with facial recognition. Through this passageway, travelers will be processed with nothing more than an automated voice telling them to “have a nice trip”. The project was carried out through a partnership with Emirates and will open a gateway to the future that no longer requires hard copies of documents.
Nadeesha Dilshani Uyangoda
Editor freelance, blogger, attivista, studentessa. Lettrice ossessiva e scrittrice compulsiva. Italiana per cultura, srilankese per eredità — sempre a metà tra due mondi. Millennial che preferisce la carta, ma si adegua al digitale per paura dell’estinzione.