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Cell Phones to Gain Face Recognition?

Japan’s Oki Electric Industry Co. , Ltd. has started shopping around a new technology to cell phone makers which could cheaply add facial recognition capabilities to camera-equipped phones. Oki’s Face Sensing Engine (FSE) builds on technology the company previously developed for iris recognition and the company’s FaceCommunicator, which animates a 2D or 3D character based on monitoring a user’s motions and expressions via a digital video camera.

According to Oki, the FSE system can decode a facial image in just over a quarter second using a 100MHz ARM9 processor, supports Symbian, ulTRON, Linux, BREW, WIPI, Windows, and Solaris platforms with a small memory footprint, and can be used to limit access usage of FSE-equipped devices to recognized users. The idea is that if your phone is lost or stolen, sensitive information stored in your phone would be protected from unauthorized access. Users would also no longer have to enter passwords or codes to access their own devices, since their phones would recognize them automatically.

Oki’s technology is supposed to be sufficiently refined that it can adapt to varying lighting conditions and facial expressions: the software locates and map key facial features such as the eyebrows, mouth, and eyes within a larger image. (Which leads one to wonder if the system can adapt to, say, the presence or absence of glasses, or growing or shaving a mustache or beard.)

Omron, another Japanese company, announced similar facial recognition technology earlier this year, but it has yet to appear in consumer products.

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