Facebook has said that their new facial recognition software can identify faces on a level very close to the human brain’s ability to do the same. We’ll have to wait and see about that. But, it does boast one really interesting new feature: it can identify your face in profile as well as from the front.
The software, named DeepFace, was perhaps destined, in a sense. Facebook, after all, boasts the single largest collection of photographs in the entire world. People love throwing up a dozen, or even hundreds of photos at a time onto their profile pages. If anyone is going to figure out how to create a precise face scanner, Facebook is the company with the greatest database of resources and data to draw upon while doing so.
According to tests conducted, human subjects could identify others’ faces up to 97.53 percent accuracy, while DeepFace promises to be able to do the same at up to 97.25 percent. There’s no telling how fair this statement is, of course. Are they considering one-quarter and three-quarter angles? What about looking at faces from above or below the subject? What if the individual is making a funny face? You could identify your best friend even if they put on a fake beard and did a handstand. Can DeepFace?
In any event, the profile-recognition is a tremendous step forward. To draw on a single picture of an individual and know immediately what they look like from the side or the front is beyond anything we’ve seen in this area thus far.
The application possibilities of the software for the social media giant are tremendous. Consider just a few possibilities made real by this new development:
If someone has a photo of you up on their account, Facebook can instantly notify you of this. This may even give you more control over your own privacy, as we generally cannot know where every single photo of ourselves will be on the internet, but this will bring us a little closer to knowing who’s posting what photos of us.
Search by Photo
Suppose you had a fun time at that party last night, but you just can’t remember that guy’s name. Now you can upload his photo to Facebook and use image searching to find him and see if he wants to hang out again sometime. For all of the negative stories regarding how they monetize their users and disregard privacy and even intellectual property rights, the bottom line is that Facebook is about connecting people, and we can opt out any time we like. This is just one more way for the service to get people in touch with one another.
Although this is a less obvious usage for the software, it may well be that, with a vast database of people to source from, the facial recognition software will help to find shared features and similar facial structures in order to help people find distant relatives.
“Whether you trust Facebook or you think they’re just another faceless corporation,” said Jason Hope, tech expert (https://www.facebook.com/jason.r.hope), “the fact remains that DeepFace makes a very exciting promise. It only remains to be seen whether or not the software actually delivers on Facebook’s claims.”
Facebook stands as one of the most visible brands of our era. Where Twitter is a fun place to share jokes, thoughts, links and photos, we tend to use Facebook as a personal database, a, well, facebook to find others, to store data about ourselves and so on. Whatever you think of Facebook’s monetization methods, whatever you think of their policies on user privacy and so on, people will continue to use the service, and they will continue to retain one of the world’s most massive collections of data, photographs and personal information.
We can hope that Facebook doesn’t use DeepFace data for anything unsavory, but at the end of the day, improved facial recognition software really does open a lot of fascinating possibilities for both developers and users.
Amy Taylor is a business and technology writer. Amy began her career as a small business owner in Phoenix, AZ. She enjoys writing about business technology trends. When she isn't writing, she enjoys hiking with her Alaskan Malamute, Sam.