Facial recognition was once nothing more than a sci-fi gimmick, but advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have made the technology a top trend to watch this year, as RocketSpace reported in its 2017 Disruption Report.
While biometrics have increasingly been used in surveillance and security technologies, facial recognition has now gotten to the point where it can branch into more mainstream applications. There are rumors that the technology will be a headline feature of the next iPhone, and KFC in China is pioneering a facial recognition ordering system that makes meal recommendations based on an analysis of each customer's age, gender and mood.
As the technology branches out from government and surveillance use to a variety of industry sectors, it's estimated that the market for facial recognition will more than double in the next five years, from $3.35 billion in 2016 to $6.84 billion by 2021.
Advancements in AI programs and machine learning, coupled with the massive growth of available processing power and big data innovations, have helped facial recognition move beyond the fantastical and into the practical.
While these advances have led to vast improvements in identifying people, the most exciting change in facial recognition is the ability of AI-supported systems to now recognize simple emotions, such as boredom, surprise or fear.
Taking Facial Recognition Beyond Security Purposes
Reading fear on faces is an obvious tool for security systems, such as border crossings or entry to high-profile public events. But judging the emotions of both an individual and a crowd could do so much more than that. In marketing and advertising, analyzing faces and tracking eye movements can tell companies what engages people and what they're ignoring, helping them to maximize the effectiveness of advertising and creative content campaigns.
Audience analysis can work in a similar way. At TEDxAmsterdam in 2014, startup Sightcorp's facial recognition software was deployed to figure out in real time what was engaging the crowd. Each talk could be analyzed by gender and age, for example, to map out the audience's interest in each segment of the conference.
The AI startup Kairos has created a human analytics platform that combines facial recognition, emotion analysis and crowd demographics for use in retail, education, marketing and financial services. Their technology is also being deployed in cars and can detect when the driver is getting tired or when they're surprised or fearful.
Right now, these abilities can help flash a warning, for example, telling the driver to take a break when they're fatigued. But it's easy to imagine future applications in self-driving vehicles that will let the car's computer take over or offer to take over when necessary.
Hot Or Not?
Media analysis is also becoming increasingly more sophisticated than the days when all producers could tell was how many people were watching a certain TV show. Startup Affectiva has already analyzed five million faces in 75 countries as they watch online media content. Film and TV producers can use the software to optimize the effectiveness of advertising and analyze the emotional impact of media content to maximize viewer engagement.
While the technology is there — and increasingly improving — to help facial recognition go mainstream, some social and ethical problems will have to be addressed. Consent and privacy are major factors in the use of facial recognition. While submitting to the use of biometrics at border control might not be optional, people may reject having their emotional responses to the latest episode of The Walking Dead analyzed.
There's no question that facial recognition can be a powerful tool for a number of industries, from security and government to retail, education, marketing and automotive. As facial recognition programs continue to improve by building up databases of faces and expressions, data protection legislation will decide how that data can be collected, how long it can be kept and how it can be used.
Want to stay-on-top of disruptive trends and startups? Learn more about our exclusive Corporate Membership that provides innovation professiaonls with ongoing briefs and innovation summits.
Interested in more reads like this? Subscribe to our Corporate Innovation Blog!