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Wired 2011: The Next Generation of Facial Recognition
Face.com's facial recognition technology is at once amazing and scary. Are you ready for your close-up?

At day two of Wired 2011 in London, Face.com CEO Gil Hersch CEO spoke in depth about the company's face recognition API. Submit an image to them and they will return a range of key information, such as "has glasses," "is smiling," "is a face," "lips are parted," and on and on.

This allows them to determine a lot of derivative information that goes beyond mere facial recognition to determining the emotions of the faces they're recognizing. By scanning 24 hours of photos  collated by a newspaper, the company's technology can generate sweeping generalisations about the mood of the world.

With a database of more than 100 million recognised faces, Face.com is clearly building a unique reference database. The model is unusual, since the database is singular and centralised. If one app clocks a face, then other apps can mine the database for their own purposes. There are privacy options, but they put the responsibility on the person pictured. Anyone can input your face, but you have to proactively log your wish to be private should you want to.

Soon the connection to streaming video will be made, and at that point it's clear to me that as a networked camera films me it will be able
to fire off events relating to that recognition. For example the door will open, or the video advert will directly address me, or my presence at the restaurant will be shared both on my Facebook page and the restaurants.

We saw a demo of this on an iPad, where, in real time Hersch pointed the camera at people in the audience who were on his Facebook page, and in real time their names were overlaid in video, hyperlinked to their Facebook pages.

Obviously, this opens up a wealth of opportunities in the streaming video space. The open accessibility created by the API brings this to the low-end developer. Which means we'd all better be ready for our close-ups.

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The tech glitterati spent day one talking about social networking, biotech, and even 3D printing, but not video. Perhaps the online video industry has gotten so good that the influencers haven't noticed how much they've been influenced?