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FBI launches $1 billion face recognition project

FBI launches $1 billion face recognition project

The technology behind facial recognition is growing better all the time. Various companies, including Apple, are building up portfolios of relevant technology to implement into their application. Now the FBI have their own “application” (catching bad guys) but:

The FBI hasn’t shared details of the algorithms it is using, but its technology could be very accurate if applied to photographs taken in controlled situations such as passport photos or police shots.

Tests in 2010 showed that the best algorithms can pick someone out in a pool of 1.6 million mugshots 92 per cent of the time. It’s possible to match a mugshot to a photo of a person who isn’t looking at the camera too. Algorithms such as one developed by Marios Savvides’s lab at Carnegie Mellon can analyse features of a front and side view set of mugshots, create a 3D model of the face, rotate it as much as 70 degrees to match the angle of the face in the photo, and then match the new 2D image with a fairly high degree of accuracy. The most difficult faces to match are those in low light. Merging photos from visible and infrared spectra can sharpen these images, but infrared cameras are still very expensive.

Of course, it is easier to match up posed images and the FBI has already partnered with issuers of state drivers’ licences for photo comparison. Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union urges caution: “Once you start plugging this into the FBI database, it becomes tantamount to a national photographic database.”

What was also interesting, and solves part of the problem I’ve been considering, is that the FBI are working on ways of pulling identification from resources other than the specific images: from drivers license images, and also from Facebook, and photo sharing sites, where people are identified.

Now for documentary or reality work, this could speed part of the job of logging by identifying and grouping shots that have the same person in it, but also to go out and search out an ID by matching the face to a name.

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1 comment

  • Robert Lawson · September 8, 2012 at 6:54 am

    Google Picasa will also perform face recognition and then attempt to match faces to your Google contacts. As soon as you tag one face, it begins to “guess” at others. It is still optional.



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