From emotion recognition to personalised menus, the possibilities for facial recognition technology are only just starting to be realised
Facial-recognition technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with the market worth $3.85bn in 2017 and predicted to rise to $9.78bn by 2023. As the technology has progressed, so have the many and varied uses it is being put to. Below, we explore some of the more impressive and even surprising things facial recognition is already being used for.
1. Emotion recognition
As facial-recognition technology analyses various points on a person’s face to identify them, it can also track the relationships between those points to detect emotion. This, along with so-called ‘micro expressions’, help the software determine common emotions such as surprise, joy, anger, sadness, disgust and so on.
One of the first uses of facial-recognition emotion detection was an advertising campaign by mouthwash brand Listerine which produced an app that notified blind people when they were being smiled at by buzzing.
That was a few years ago, but emotion detection is much more nuanced now. It can help with everything from gauging sentiment tied to a brand or advertising campaign, helping in new product testing or even spotting the potential for violence in crowds. It can identify people showing signs of nervous behaviour in airports and other public spaces, helping security services target potentially suspicious individuals.
2. Paying with your face
Thanks to facial recognition, Chinese theme parks and technology events are already letting people use their face as an entrance ticket. You can also pick up rail tickets after being identified by facial recognition and even, using mobile payment apps like Alipay, transfer money to people with a smile.
It’s entering the mainstream too. In China, HSBC customers can make payments with a selfie, and it won’t be long before many other financial institutions follow suit. Asia leads the way in new technology adoption and a ‘Trust in Technology’ report found that more than 60 per cent of Chinese people believe that biometrics, such as facial or fingerprint recognition, will be the only way to access banking services within 10 years.
3. Wake up a sleepy driver
Facial-recognition technology isn’t just about identifying people, it can also be useful aid to stop people falling asleep at the wheel. According to the UK government’s ‘Think! campaign‘ almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep related and about 40% of those accidents involve commercial vehicles. Drowsiness-detection facial recognition systems work by monitoring head and eye movement, alerting the driver to stop before they nod off.
4. See who’s paying attention
In a similar way, head and eye tracking can also be used to track distractedness. The technology is being used in lecture halls and training centres to see who is paying attention. This isn’t to punish pupils, but to monitor which lessons students most engage with, where problem subjects are likely to be and what distractions in the room can be removed to create a better learning environment.
5. Personalised menus and targeted marketing
In some fast food restaurants in China, facial recognition software on digital menus can not only recognise customers, but match face data to previous orders to present customers with more personalised dining options. There are no loyalty cards to sign up to, no time-consuming logins – just a personalised greeting every time people order. It can also associate payment details to a face, so even purchasing is faster.
The technology is not just being used in fast food restaurants though. It’s a powerful addition to any public-facing business. Once a person has been identified by a store, their past behaviour in your business (or any social channel connected to it) can be used to show targeted advertising on smart displays that match the known buying habits of that individual. Even if they are brand new to your business, it is still possible to target the advertising shown to them on digital displays based on their age, gender, and other facial attributes.
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