Facial Recognition: what it is and how it works

When we speak of facial recognition, we refer to a particular technology developed for the first time in the 1960s and that has recently come to terms with a truly remarkable impulse.
riconoscimento facciale
As it is well known, facial recognition is a technology that has to do with computer security of any kind of device and has become a must, not only for professionals but also, and above all, for all of us.

Biometrics is undoubtedly an important means of ensuring safety. Just think that companies that produce smartphones have long been involved in the manufacture of devices capable of recognizing fingerprints. Fingerprint recognition, however, is a safety procedure that now represents the past, especially if one takes into account the fact that there are numerous solutions to boycott it.

Facial recognition is slowly replacing it. It allows you to keep any kind of data safe, as well as the devices themselves, by simply scanning your face. As you can imagine, the first company to take the first steps in this area was Microsoft with its Windows Hello.

All the users who have Windows 10 will be amazed to know that that they will now be able to turn on their computer simply by smiling in front of their webcam. With regard to facial recognition, it is important to take into account that this is not a new invention. As mentioned, already in the 1960s a series of experiments were carried out, allowing us to lay solid foundations in this field.


How does facial recognition work?

Facial recognition is very simple. To recognize a face, the so-called artificial intelligence algorithms are used to ensure that the recognition is quick and, above all, automatic.

The road to go, however, is still very long. Although science and research have made a great stride forward, the development phase is only at the beginning and, therefore, it is really very difficult to figure out what the future holds in this regard.
For sure, smart phones, PCs, and tablets will not fail to resort to that technology. It is also possible to use facial recognition in other fields such as for example, road safety.

But what is the margin of error of these instruments? Answering this question is not that easy. It may, however, be helpful to try to understand what are the references used for the recognition. Facial recognition can be carried out either by taking into account the distance between the two pupils, the size of the nose and other facial characteristics, or, alternatively, studying the way the so-called pixels combine to give shape to the elements that compose the face. In this second case, you will only proceed with comparing the results obtained with the images stored in the database.

Both techniques are very similar to the mechanism behind fingerprints. Basically, facial elements are considered as the lines that lie on fingers. However, recently, a new technology has been implemented. Even though it still is in the process of improvement, this new technology seems to have the right characteristics to become the most widely used.

This technology should be able to recognize faces through a simple comparison. In all cases, the facial recognition process goes from the detecting phase that is carried out by sensors which have been appropriately installed in a webcam, to the alignment, during which the machine proceeds with the measurements, the representation, the comparison and, finally, with the identification.

  • The measurement consists of collecting all the numeric values that are useful to proceed with the calculation of the algorithm.
  • The representation, instead, is nothing more than transforming this data into real curves that will serve to translate numbers into a face. With the comparison, then, you have the opportunity to make a real comparison between the images that are stored in the database and those that are received.
  • The identification, of course, is the last stage of the process where the face, translated into a code, is recognized.

What is interesting to highlight is that facial recognition, thanks to its accuracy and speed of response that is able to provide, is a highly widespread technique for airport security checks. This demonstrates that significant steps forward have recently been made. Facial recognition has been developed thanks to a large-scale sharing of personal pictures as well as thanks to the spasmodic use of our smartphones.


Among the new frontiers of facial recognition is the interpretation of emotions

In this case, facial recognition can be useful for doctors to detect various types of illnesses including depression, for example.

Ethical issues are not lacking since facial recognition seems to be a mechanism that, if used improperly, could violate our personal freedom. In any case, at least for the moment, this is a more than lawful solution besides being perfect for meeting the constant need for security in every area of our lives. When it comes to facial recognition, it is impossible not to think of home automation. Indeed, home automation could benefit from this new technology and we are very close to seeing the first experiments.

Basically, facial recognition is nothing more than a further step forward in research that, although putting pressure on the traditional privacy system, guarantees security and allows us to maximize our time in daily actions. There is nothing else to do then wait and see what will be the legal measures that will be taken in this respect.
Meanwhile, thinking about realities told in films such as “Minority Report” or in the great TV-show “Person of Interest” might be useful to better understand what could be the real applications of the technology that is behind facial recognition.


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