How will 3D facial recognition improve public security?

BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory series recently shone on a torch on big data. During the show they discussed how big data is being used to improve facial recognition software.

The show speculated that 3D facial recognition could be smart enough to detect emotions on our faces. It also exposed flaws in 2D facial recognition technology, showing how the software failed to realise when it was seeing a picture of a person or a real person standing in front of the camera.

How are 3D images rendered?

Bang Goes the Theory visited the Centre for Machine Vision at the Bristol Robotics Lab to look at their project, Photoface. This system uses a high speed camera and fires 5 infrared flashes to create a 3D model of the subject’s face. The model recreates the structure of the face it has photographed and mapped, matching chin depth, nose length, eye spacing etc. Where 2D scanning can be easily confused by superficial changes in features, a system like Photoface won’t be.

Predicting crime

The show’s presenter, Liz Bonnin, goes so far as to say that big data can be used to predict the future and in fact already is doing so in UK law enforcement. It’s not quite on the scale of the Minority Report movie but Liz says the police are using weather reports and recorded data on break-ins to predict where and when the next crimes might occur.

Florida PD’s FaceMatch program

A pilot program trialing new 3D based facial recognition was put in place at the Florida Police Department last August. The program is called FaceMatch.

The company behind FaceMatch is 3D-ID, a subsidiary of NXT-ID. NXT-ID are at the forefront of mobile security including creating new, better ways of making digital payments on the go.

The 3D-ID website says it provides solutions for:

  • Prisons
  • Access Control
  • Law Enforcement
  • Homeland Security

They say that 3D recognition is better than 2D systems because it is ‘pose and lighting invariant’. This means that while 2D recognition software often fails to recognise faces due to incompatible lighting, poses and expressions, facial hair, cosmetics etc that 3D recognition software still works despite variations.

FaceMatch, unlike Photoface, doesn’t use lasers. Instead up to a million points on the subject’s face are analysed and then the shape is compressed into a biometric template.

Florida PD is using FaceMatch to induct inmates to detention centres through the Palm Bay area. This will build up a database of reliable identification models. Positive identification is extremely important in law enforcement and this technology will make police work easier.

Apple want a piece of the pie

In 2012 AppleInsider reported that Apple’s secure facial recognition system would rely on 3D rendering. Apple acquired the Swedish company Polar Rose in 2010, a firm that specialises in facial recognition software. With that acquisition they inherited a patent application for a new style of facial recognition that can render 2D images into a 3D image. This could be used as a security feature on Apple devices.

Undoubtedly technology such as this will be useful in the same settings our scanning technology is already utilised.

Posted in Big Data, Facial recognition technology, Security.