There’s a photo feature on Facebook that automatically recognizes faces to make tagging easier. So what, right? Well, the technology was developed by Face.com, and it’s now being used for something way more legitimate. It’s being used to keep all you underage drinkers from getting into even more nightlife spots, so you can say goodbye to that dive bar you thought would never let you down.
Through its facial recognition system, the company is now also offering an API for developers to use in the apps they build. The latest update to the API can scan a photo and supposedly determine a person’s minimum, maximum, and estimated age. This isn’t the first software of its kind. Other companies in this space include Cognitec, with its FaceVACS software development kit, and Bayometric, which offers FaceIt Face Recognition. Google has also developed facial-recognition technology for Android 4.0 and Apple applied for a facial recognition patent last year. However, Face.com is the first API that seems to be expanding its uses, growing beyond just developers and reaching out to the entertainment industry directly as well.
According to Face.com chief executive Gil Hirsch, the app uses the general structure of a face to determine age. Kids have round, soft faces and, as we age, features elongate. The app’s algorithms also take wrinkles, facial smoothness, and other telling age signs into account to place each scanned face into a general age group. The API also provides a confidence level on how well it could determine the age, based on image quality and how the person looks in photo (if they are turned to one side or are making a strange face, the confidence level decreases).
The hope is that developers will integrate the technology into apps, which will help restrict or tailor content based on age. For example, if it’s integrated into Netflix, the software could scan the viewer’s face and determine whether or not they were too young to watch the movie they had requested. And in a more futuristic and bizarre hypothetical - the software could scan people’s faces as they walked into a department store and deliver ads based on age and gender.
Don’t start panicking just yet, though. Face.com still seems to have some bugs to fix. When Fueled tested the app, we found mixed results. The age predictor was dead-on at times; at other times, it was 13 years off. About 75% of other users have also reported that it’s given them age estimates that are upto 10 years off and often gets their gender wrong as well. You can check it out for yourself by uploading a photo under “method parameters”, then clicking the “call method” button. A white box will appear around your face with red dots pinpointing the eyes, nose, and lips. Hover over the white box and an attributes box will list your age, mood, gender — and how genuine your smile is.
While it looks like a promising prototype, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be in bars or clubs anytime soon. Phew.