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The Singularity is Near

  • Posted: Wed 25 Apr 2012

The Boom of Recognition Technology

With the continuing boom of social networking and the continuous introduction of new methods of communication, recognition technology is currently experiencing new levels of interest. What started for many consumers as the novelty of having photos of friends automatically tagged on sites such as Facebook, recognition technology is now far more evolved. Computers can now not only recognise faces, but also body movements, voice and even electrical signals from within the brain. Facial recognition, gesture recognition and brainwave technology are the three forms of recognition that are showing signs of totally transforming the way we interact. This type of technology could transpire into industries such as TV programmes, gaming, advertising and mobile communications.

Facial recognition

Facial recognition – “biometric identification by scanning a person’s face and matching it against a library of known faces” – is not exactly a new concept. It has been around for quite some time in security and police technology. The concept has since become popular among consumers; a computer can be programmed to identify the user’s face when put up to a webcam by matching it to a stored database of that user’s features. Consumers are starting to use this technique as an easy, typing-free method of logging into their home computers. Businesses are also using it as a security feature, to protect against data and ID theft.

More recently, facial recognition technology has been developed to include recognition of one face among many faces in a crowd. The computer does this by storing a database of many different faces and by matching the face in question to a particular face within its saved database. Website,, a new piece of facial recognition software, has a database of over 34 billion faces, so has become well-placed to offer an accurate face recognition platform.

This concept is also being applied to video as well as still-life images and next stages of advancement now include determining a person’s gender, age and emotion based on applying the recognition software to a particular face. This opens up a world of possibilities for the advertising world; it provides the potential for a billboard, for example, to recognise whether a consumer looking at it is male or female – or old or young – in order to adjust adverts in accordance.

Gesture and voice recognition

There are a host of apps now available that enable the user to “say” a text message or to speak a command to Google. For example: “where can I find the cheapest local courier service?” would prompt the search engine to automatically return a list of relevant answers. Gesture recognition is where a “camera reads the movements of the human body and communicates the data to a computer that uses the gestures as input to control devices or applications.” Gesture recognition is already popular in gaming, with many consoles offering interactive control based on a computer identifying body movements of the user. A classic example of this is Microsoft Kinect, a gestural game that uses voice, face and movement recognition in order to operate controls. The web-based system also uses an infra red laser to determine distance, measuring the space between the user and the device. This enables the computer to recognise forward and backward motion, creating a 3D image of the user that could recognise arms and legs even when placed in directly in front of or behind the body.

Gesture recognition technology offers a range of possibilities for impactful and meaningful interactions between brands in advertising and marketing campaigns, and has the potential to replace the inconvenience of clumsy and unhygienic touchscreen and hand-held devices.

Brainwave recognition technology

The ability to read brain signals has been around for a long time. It has been used in the medical profession for many years by measuring the frequency of electrical impulses in the brain. However, there are now companies that have developed the technology to be used by consumers. Recently, a team of Danish scientists announced plans to launch a mobile brain scanner – powered by a Nokia N900 phone – which is capable of reading, recoding and producing real time data showing the user’s feelings and emotions. The software is planned for release to the general public this year as an app and a headset, allowing the general public the ability to scan their brains and interpret their own data. This could be available for $300. This release opens up a world of possibilities for the gaming world, as well as for use in therapeutic activities. In the future, brainwave recognition technology could help to provide information at its most accurate, and would help both individuals and companies gain a better understanding of the thought process.

– Jenny Hardcastle

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