Klik makes face recognition fun and user-friendly; can we get over the creepy factor?

KlikFace recognition technology has struggled to reach mass adoption. Facebook arguably took the first and most user-friendly steps last year when it introduced a tagging feature that automatically recognized the people in your uploaded photos.

The backlash was to be expected of course, but in due time, the user outrage generally quieted (as it so often does in the case of Facebook upgrade uproars). It’s difficult to know how used this feature is: I reached out to Facebook to ask if they had any stats or information on its popularity. Since users are allowed to opt themselves out of being suggested in auto-tagging, there’s a possibility you’d never see your friends’ names surface if they all decided against being auto-tagged. Unfortunately the only answer I received was to be pointed in the direction of Facebook’s newsroom.

So in a quick test, I decided to try and upload some photos and see if any names were automatically suggested to me. With three different people in my pictures (whom I’ve tagged before), Facebook didn’t suggest any tags to me. Hurting this are likely mobile uploads (yet another reason to get your app game together, Facebook).

Still, despite any hiccups or slow adoption rates, it’s one of the most consumer-facing applications of face recognition technologies end-users have had the opportunity to experiment with. And for the most part, it works (worked?) really well (yes, we all had that moment where Facebook tried to tag a potted plant as your sister).

Now a new face recognition app has been added to the consumer catalog. Klik is the product of Face.com, a company leading the production of this technology and introducing it to users. Its face recognition software has been used to power its own apps as well as well as offer API services to outside developers. But now the Tel Aviv and New York-based company is plugging its own product with Klik.

After spending some time in beta, Klik is finally up and running and ready for the public – and it works surprisingly well. The app auto-tags you and your friends in real time while you’re setting up the picture, before ever hitting capture. It works by connecting with Facebook, so it basically scans the site for tagged photos there and lines them up with what it’s seeing through your lens and matches your friend’s name to his or her likeness.

Klik examplesIn all my time with the app, it was completely accurate. The Learn Mode in Klik can help if this isn’t the case though – or if you want to play a fun guessing game with your phone. When you’re in the camera section of Klik, hit “Learn” in the upper right hand corner. You’ll see a “Face goes here” indicator and then the app will tell you who it thinks it’s looking at, then it will store and learn that information. It’s a useful tool for people that don’t have many tagged photos on Facebook or keep them private. For the record, Klik will only pull names of people you’re already friends with via Facebook. You can see the Learn Mode below.

Klik learning modeTo top it all off, Klik throws in a small collection of filters and an interesting location discovery feature. You can view photos taken with Klik via the “friends” or “nearby” tab. You’ll find photos taken by others in your general area. It’s accurate Nearbyalthough not that intriguing: it’s a new app and it will suffer the same struggles as other location-based features. It’s not engaging until enough people are using it. But this is what Color should have done – put the value-add somewhere else and introduce the location-based assets elsewhere. Get your users to like the app for something they can access and then turn them on to the idea of a flexible social network.

Face recognition technology has a lot in common with SoLoMo apps. It’s testing the waters of what users find captivating and what they find creepy. We’ve collectively been becoming more comfortable with apps that once may have sounded incredibly intrusive and dangerous, and some of that can be chalked up to the “don’t like it, don’t use it” attitude the digital world has adopted. Klik has an opt-out tool, but at the moment it’s leading to a 404 error. 

But the more developers jump on board, the more it’s going to be an all-or-nothing situation. Already tons of apps want to read your location in order to get real use out of them, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we found ourselves in a similar boat with face recognition in the near future. Smartphone hardware is starting to experiment with the technology for security purposes – Apple is interested in it.

The privacy concerns are expected, and perhaps warranted, but applications like Klik are a nice crash course in warming up (or totally abandoning) what could be massively implemented in the coming years.