Emotion decoded: Face.com enables any website or app to recognize faces and some simple expressions.
A startup has built technology that could give any website or app the ability to recognize people’s faces, and even to identify their facial expressions. While some see the technology as creepy, Face.com, the company behind it, argues that most users don’t mind being recognized automatically online.
As computer vision software gets better, facial recognition software is becoming more common. With millions of images uploaded to services like Facebook every day, this technology can make social services more convenient, and could lead to completely new kinds of services and apps—but it also has obvious privacy implications.
For over a year, Face.com has made its technology available to software developers, enabling them to build it into a website or Web-connected apps. A website or app sends photos, which may be uploaded by users, to Face.com’s servers for processing and receives details that include the location of any faces, their gender, and whether they match other photos stored by Face.com. Last week, the service was upgraded to allow it to gauge a person’s mood, classifying them as happy, sad, surprised, angry, or neutral. It could already spot smiles, but has now gained the ability to classify whether a person’s lips are sealed, parted, or making a kiss. These new features could perhaps be used to automatically add more detailed tags to images or to challenge people to convey a certain mood with their expression.
Within three days of the launch of these new features, one website has begun using Face.com’s mood recognition feature. Moodbattle is a website that asks visitors with webcams to compete to pull the most extreme expressions associated with particular emotions (browse the results here).
“Last month, we processed more than two billion different photos,” says Face.com’s CEO Gil Hirsch, who adds that usage is growing. Some 20,000 developers have signed up to tap into Face.com’s technology; they can process 5,000 photos per hour for free, or pay for the ability to process more.
Hirsch says the four-year-old company recently became profitable, but he acknowledges that facial recognition still raises privacy concerns with many.