Have you taken any photos recently of people? Did you import those photos to your computer?
Chances are, the software you use to view and organise those photos can also recognise the faces of people, and perhaps even pets.
Fun with family photos
If your Apple Computer has iPhoto or your Windows computer has Windows Live Photo Gallery then you can probably use facial recognition to help label your photos.
This usually works by selecting one or more photos of a person, selecting some kind of menu item and then adding the person’s name. After that the software will attempt to apply that name to any other photos of the same person.
This is awfully good fun and very handy. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a go. I’ve even had some success using facial recognition with photos of my pets.
Facial recognition and crime
We also see facial recognition being used on TV crime shows to help catch terrorists. They match a photo to their bank of photos to turn up the name they need.
I’m sure we all agree that catching criminals is a good thing.
Increasingly in our societies cameras are watching us as we go about our daily lives. Look around you next time you go into town and you’ll probably see discreet cameras all over the place. You’ll see them in the bank, perhaps at the supermarket, in the corner dairy and on the street if you look hard enough.
Real-time recognition and tracking
Researchers in the UK are working on software that can collate the images from surveillance cameras in real time to detect patterns of activity. Certain patterns may suggest suspicious activity. These are called trigger events. For example, a person may appear to be holding a gun, or a crowd may start running.
When the software detects a trigger event it can immediately call up images from just beforehand and track back on the previous activity of a suspect. It can also follow a suspect to see what they do next.
This software is only now being developed and not actually in use yet. However, it stands to reason that at some point such systems may be deployed. I’m sure that law enforcement will be very happy to have a powerful tool like this at their disposal.
It seems to me though, that a capability like this must raise a swag of questions and issues. For example, who defines ‘suspicious activity’? How accurate is the software? Will this escalate serious crime as perpetrators take new measures to avoid detection?
What do you think?