TAMPA BAY, Florida – Facial recognition technology, already in use by some corporations and law enforcement agencies, may also soon be coming to your kitchen, car, or child’s toy box.
“Vision is more powerful than voice,” said Stephen Neish, CEO of Sighthound. "A device (could) sit on your kitchen table, and when you come in in the morning, it can see you, recognize you, and interact with you. It can tell you what you're commute is going to be like, it can tell you what the weather is going to do today.”
Neish says facial recognition technologies will revolutionize consumer products in the next 2-3 years, including:
- Recognition of individuals in vehicles, so specific air controls and air bag settings can be automatically calibrated;
- Tracking individuals throughout your home, so the A/C can be shut off in vacant rooms and turned higher/lower when certain individuals enter a room;
- Built into children’s toys so they can intelligently interact with specific kids in specific ways.
There are also security utilizations in the works, including:
- Facial recognition at ATMs and office entrances to confirm identities of individuals using secure cards;
- Security cameras that can track specific individuals through a crowd;
- Quick-recognition software that will continue to let agencies such as TSA to expedite security lines.
The Hillsborough and Pinellas sheriff’s offices also currently use facial recognition software as investigative tools, but not in the "CSI"-style manner you might see on TV.
"We stress very much in training it’s just an investigative tool,” said Pinellas County Assistant Chief Deputy Sean Jowell, adding the technology is still in its early stages. “There are people who look alike."
PCSO uses its software to confirm the identities of suspects in investigations, senior citizens who may be lost, as well as suspects getting released from jail to ensure they never release the wrong inmate.
The Tampa Police Department used an early version of the technology in conjunction with surveillance cameras during the 2009 Super Bowl but ended its trial without any signs of success. PCSO, on the other hand, has a stronger track record with facial recognition successes.
But the quickest advances seem to be coming on the consumer side. Sighthound is developing a product that, when incorporated into a television, would recognize stars the minute they stepped onto the screen, providing additional information on their biographies, related shows, and other pertinent information.
And Sighthound’s CEO thinks it won’t be long before facial recognition is adopted by everyone the same way smartphones have been.
"I think there's always a fear when new technologies come along, whether it's the automobile or whether its phones that understand voice...that there's a potential to misuse,” Neish said. “What we normally find is that the beneficial uses for humankind far outweigh the negatives.”