On Technologies for Automatic Facial Recognition

Interesting article on technologies that will automatically identify people:

With technology like that on Mr. Leyvand’s head, Facebook could prevent users from ever forgetting a colleague’s name, give a reminder at a cocktail party that an acquaintance had kids to ask about or help find someone at a crowded conference. However, six years later, the company now known as Meta has not released a version of that product and Mr. Leyvand has departed for Apple to work on its Vision Pro augmented reality glasses.

The technology is here. Maybe the implementation is still dorky, but that will change. The social implications will be enormous.

Posted on September 15, 2023 at 7:15 AM12 Comments


Winter September 15, 2023 8:32 AM

The technology is here. Maybe the implementation is still dorky, but that will change.

I see an arms race coming with people trying to subvert identification in the street using, eg, makeup and led lights (see, eg, Fall by Neal Stephenson), and rules and laws prohibiting its use in public spaces.

Peter Galbavy September 15, 2023 9:25 AM

This post is coincidental with my rewatching the (rather excellent) Connections with James Burke series (there were 3, even if it’s only the first that most people saw).

In one of the episodes he discussed the impact that printing had on society, how we moved from an oral tradition and one where we memorised everything we needed to know – proverbs as triggers, memory cathedrals, travelling minstrels spreading news and all the rest – to one where the printed book provided societal memory.

While we’ve been through another shift with ubiquitous ‘net access, augmented reality (not just visual) will, I think, kick it up another gear to the point where human brains will not really need to remember anything. Is that a good thing or is it just an inevitability?

Chelloveck September 15, 2023 10:27 AM

I’ve always said that the killer app for Google Glass (or any similar device) would be facial recognition. Give me a device that pops up an AR nametag for someone and I won’t be able to open my wallet fast enough. But let’s keep this to local processing. I don’t care if it’s limited to just matching against my phone contacts, but I sure wouldn’t want photos of everyone I see (geotagged for convenience, I’m sure) uploaded to some nebulous cloud.

wes September 15, 2023 12:44 PM

… current FaceRec technology has a VERY high error rate in real world use.

the tech will slowly improve, but the COUNTER MEASURES to defeat it are relatively easy and cheap … if the public decides that this spy tech is too intrusive.

Steven Griffin September 15, 2023 12:57 PM

@Peter Galbavy – Interestingly Jame Burke also predicted that virtual assistants would soon be commonplace and considered its impact on our daily lives back in the early 90’s as part of his connections(2) series.

In an early episode, using a first generation MacBook, he demonstrated how a virtual assistants (avatars of you) will soon predict your needs, talk to other virtual assistants, and manage your schedule/life without input from you at all. With the rapid growth of machine learning being coupled with large language models I expect this prediction to come true very shortly.

Couple this with the facial recognition article Mr. Schneier references and you’ve got a paradigm shifting piece of technology. The entire point of Burke’s connections series is to highlight how differing ideas and pieces of technology frequently come together and result in world shifting change and unintended consequences.

It is interesting, and frightening, to see this occurring in what amounts to real-time.

A Nonny Bunny September 15, 2023 3:46 PM

Facebook could prevent users from ever forgetting a colleague’s name

More like “relieve them from the burden of ever needing to remember”

Clive Robinson September 15, 2023 8:11 PM

@ Anonymous, ALL

Re : Henry Thoreau 1845 quote

The quote is not far short of having it’s bi-centenary celebration.

What makes it funny is that we now ascribe new meanings to “Tool(s)” as a certain kind of limited personality and outlook, thus makes it very similar to,

“the blind leading the blind”

Which is a variation on the last line of a Hindu “Krishna Yajurveda” estimated to be from around 1000 BC,

Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking of themselves as wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind.

And they say we never learn 😉

Peter Galbavy September 16, 2023 3:27 AM

@Stephen Griffin

“… The entire point of Burke’s connections series is to highlight how differing ideas and pieces of technology frequently come together and result in world shifting change …”

When I was young I was entertained by the first series (I was about 11 and it was on the BBC and I recall some nudity!). When I rewatched it for the second time 40 years later I sat there with my jaw on the floor. 1978 and he was making educated predictions on our future based on the changes he (and I am sure researchers helping) found interesting for a series. In the last programme of that first series (or was it Ep. 9?) he basically described the global Internet and always connected devices and how society would shift.

For anyone who hasn’t ever seen it, please do yourself a favour and go find it (archive.org if you can’t get the better quality DVDs).

Now, back to normal service…

Marko September 16, 2023 12:06 PM

As a furry my first question is, does this work on fursuit heads?

More seriously, face detection is only necessary when you, as an observer, want to exercise heightened intelligence over observeds without their participation or consent.

We’re all already carrying phones everywhere. If people wanted to hand out reminders of their names to other peoples’ AR headsets, face recognition isn’t necessary. Just use Bluetooth or something.

Nimmo September 17, 2023 2:19 AM

The article is nonsense. The likes of F(ace)A(pple)G(oogle) never ‘shut down’ these projects into invading people’s privacy. They just handed them over to their masters in the CIA and the ‘state’ of ‘israel’.

Bob Paddock September 18, 2023 10:33 AM

What if they go beyond just identification and start using facial traits for analytics?:

Face reading has been part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for many centuries, and [the late] Professor Lillian Bridges is a popular academic and international lecturer on the subject who gained her fascinating knowledge through her family line of Master Face Readers in China.

Based on an understanding of the shapes, markings and features of a face, practitioners can learn about the health and life of a patient relating to the principles of Chinese medicine. In addition to understanding how the body’s internal functions – physical, psychological and emotional – can be seen on a face, practitioners can also learn how to evaluate Shen to understand non-verbal expressions.Technical and detailed information is presented in an upbeat, insightful and highly readable manner. This was the first book to focus on the deeper aspects of face reading and diagnosis, this edition includes ancient Taoist knowledge regarding the Original Face and Facial Jing and Qi markers which have previously only been taught through the oral tradition.

From Amazon for Face Reading in Chinese Medicine by Bridges Lillian.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.