Facial recognition, also referred to as Biometric Artificial Intelligence, is regarded now as one of the top ways of identifying and verifying a person. It is so common place that we probably even have it in our homes, either through our consoles, phones or security systems. Growing up in the 80’s face recognition was something only for the James Bonds’ of this world, but the advances in the last decade alone have catapulted this incredible technology into the lives of us all. Facial recognition is already being harnessed by several industries; Law enforcement use it to serve and protect, retailers use it for crime prevention, Airports use it for security (and we even have the technology to use it on our Intelligent Vending machines, if clients desire it to deliver their project objectives! Wow!).
So where did all this catapulted technology come from? It’s true the last decade has really thrown facial recognition into the spotlight, but where did it start? Many believe that the 1960’s is where it all began with the work from Woodrow Wilson Bledsoe. Bledsoe was an American mathematician, computer scientist and prominent educator. Born in 1921, he is regarded as one of the founders of artificial intelligence, making early contributions in pattern recognition and automated theorem proving. His work in the 1960’s included developing a system that could classify photos of faces manually, known as the RAND tablet (considered the predecessor of the iPad, in many circles). The RAND could be used to input horizontal and vertical coordinates on a grid, using a stylus that emitted electromagnetic pulses, this in turn could manually record the coordinate locations of various facial features; these could then be added to a database and when the system was given a new photo of an individual it could retrieve the image that most resembled it.  The technology of the era being so limited meant that the advancement in facial recognition were restricted but never the less it is seen as an important step in proving that face recognition was a viable biometric.
In the 1970’s a more well known milestone in facial recognition, “21 facial markers” was devised by Goldstein, Harmon and Lesk. Using 21 specific subjective markers such as hair line, lip thickness and eye width they were able to increase accuracy to the (still manual) facial recognition system.
The 1980’s saw linear algebra being applied to the problem of facial recognition, this became known as the Eigenface approach. Scientists discovered they could accurately code a ‘normalised face’ in less than 100 values.
In the 1990’s the Eigenface approach was developed further and had been advanced to recognise faces within images. This was the first use of automatic facial recognition.
The following 20 years, has involved a lot of practical research and field tests including the Feret programme (creating a large database of facial images) and The Super Bowl, in the USA in 2002 where law enforcement trialed the technology, but were limited by its functionality in crowds. Facebook started using facial recognition in 2010 and continue to utilise it today along with Apple, Military and retail sectors.
So with all this incredible biometric technology all around us, should we be concerned at all? Is our privacy being compromised by the gathering of our own data through surveillance techniques or our phones when we are sometimes not even aware of it? Privacy campaigners express concern about governments and other authorities having access to the whereabouts, and activities of citizens 24/7, some of these concerns arise from biometric artificial intelligence being so advanced, it can be used to not just identify a person but show them other existing personal data like blog articles, photos, social networking profiles, internet searches etc. This can make the public vulnerable on a number of levels for example; your facial signature could end up in a lot of places, hackers may track down images of you (or your face) online, this data may be sold, people can be left open to online harassment, stalking and trolling. It is also becoming less and less impossible to remain anonymous.  As the digital age advances and the need for identification and authentication of a person continues to elevate, is it our face that is going to be the key to the future? To action the opening of a bank account we would use our face, or going through customs at an airport we would use our face, access and unlock technology (including cars!) with our face, even the potential of paying for goods, withdrawing your money from ATM’s and verifying your age (therefore completely abandoning the need for a wallet at all!) all because of the magic of your face! It seems there can be no denying this technology, despite any concerns we might have as it seems to be the top way to verify and authenticate. I guess there is nothing left to do except put our very best face forward.