Obvious Idea #2: Passive Facial Recognizer

The Problem

I am bad with faces. I mean really bad with faces. My brain just doesn’t seem to be very good at mapping what someone looks like with their name.  This often makes things difficult for me at networking events and conferences.

The Solution

A passive mobile application that scans the environment around the user for faces. When it detects a face that it recognizes the application speaks the person’s name to the user via their bluetooth earpiece. Ideally this solution would also involve a discrete camera that could operate without being obvious to the people it is operating on. The point is to serve as a passive aid to memory while not changing the behavior of the people you are interacting with.

The Competition

There are a couple concept applications out there along this line including Recognizr and Comverse Social AR. Both of these applications have the same problem, which is that you have to hold up your phone to take a photo of the person you want to identify, then wait for the result to come back.  That is intrusive enough that a simple “I’m sorry, remind me what your name is…” would be a better option.

The Pieces

  1. Facial recognition. There are many providers of facial detection and recognition APIs, so it should be possible to license this piece. Unfortunately most of the providers don’t seem to be very good at licensing their SDK to people. I get the idea that these are all very small companies that spun out of someone’s PhD research.
    1. PittPatt never replied to my email.
    2. Luxand put me on their marketing email list, but never sent me an evaluation key.
    3. Betaface actually gave me a chance to evaluate their SDK. It works quite well. I wasn’t a fan of their licensing terms, but you might have different needs than I did.
    4. Ayonix got back to me right away but never provided the promised evaluation link.
    5. I don’t remember if I contacted Seeing Machines or not.
  2. Bluetooth camera – I bought an OptiEye. It works pretty well. If you ask them nicely they will send you the protocol documentation. The specs claim a four hour battery life, which is plenty for most networking events.
  3. Text to speech – I haven’t done any research here.  Many applications do it, though, so I would imagine SDKs are available.  If nothing else the user could record the names and the software could just play back the recordings.
  4. Mobile computer – Both Android and iPhone allow communication over RFCOMM, which is what the OptiEye uses. Existing devices are also too weak in the CPU department to do much visual processing on the phone, but they could stream video or individual frames up to a server for further processing.

What do you think?  Dream product?  Interesting project? Terrible idea?


4 Responses to “Obvious Idea #2: Passive Facial Recognizer”

  1. Makaze thought on :

    It’s a great idea. But it’s also an idea that every single wearable display company had years ago. It’s generally considered to be one of the killer apps of and what will bring the early adopters to Virtual Retinal Displays.

  2. Joe replied on :

    I did say it was obvious. :)

    If there’s anything new here it’s the notion of doing it without the wearable displays. They aren’t here yet and won’t be for at least a few more years. Once they arrive replacing the audio with a floating name is a no-brainer.

  3. Alex replied on :

    Technically I think it’s an interesting idea. Personally I wouldn’t want to use something like this. I find it terrible enough that thanks to my mobile phone I’m incapable of remembering any phone numbers. I wouldn’t want to get too lazy to remember people’s names, YMMV though.

  4. Eden said on :

    You should try out the new face.com API that came out yesterday (http://developers.face.com/). Enjoy!

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