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What is face recognition?

An intro to facial recognition software

Face recognition technology

Facial recognition is a way to use technology for the personal identification or grouping of individuals in images, both still and video.

Face recognition is a type of computer vision that uses optical input to analyze an image—in this case, it looks particularly at faces that appear in the image. Facial recognition technology can be used as a building block to support other capabilities like face identification, grouping, and verification.

Face recognition software can support many practical uses, both for businesses and for users at home.

How does facial recognition work?

Face recognition is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) that mimics a human capability to recognize human faces. Just like when a human recognizes a face, facial recognition software captures facial features and creates a pattern of facial features which it uses to identify or group a face.

Facial recognition process:

An image is captured

AI image recognition software reads the geometry of the face in the image by looking at the distance between key facial features, creating a unique facial template

The facial template is compared to a database of known, stored, or available faces

A determination is made if a match is found in the existing database

Uses for face recognition technology

Face recognition technology is making the world safer, smarter, and more convenient—and as the need for advanced security grows, the potential uses for facial recognition continue to expand. Here are two basic ways this technology is frequently used:

Face verification

With face verification, two face templates are compared to see if they are a match. On a practical level, the purpose of a facial recognition algorithm is to evaluate whether two faces belong to the same person.

Person identification

Person identification uses photo face recognition to identify a detected face against a database of people in order to determine identity.

Applications for face recognition

Facial recognition can be applied to a wide variety of scenarios. Here are four ways that organizations and individuals use this technology for security and convenience:

Identity verification and authentication

Facial recognition can be used in combination with other identifying factors to verify a person's identity so they can securely access their bank and personal accounts. It's typically used as an additional authentication factor, in combination with a password or other security measures.

Security and access control

Facial recognition is a safe, reliable, touch-free method for a business to provide a secure way for a large number of people to access sensitive areas of a building.

Event and travel security

Some organizations are starting to use face recognition in place of tickets to help streamline admission to events. It’s also being used more frequently in the travel industry to increase security on airplanes and trains.

Smart home applications

Facial recognition isn't just valuable for security use cases; it can also bring convenience to home users. This technology can help facilitate a smart home with intelligent devices that recognize people's identities.

Using face recognition responsibly

As facial recognition technology becomes more commonplace, both users and developers are tasked with ensuring that it is used responsibly and ethically. A facial recognition system isn’t just technology; it also includes the people who will use it, the people who will be subject to it, and the environment in which it is deployed.

Creating an ethical facial recognition system requires an understanding of how the technology works, its capabilities and limitations, and how to achieve the most accurate results. And when building facial recognition solutions, it’s imperative to ensure that they’re designed and used thoughtfully and respectfully.

Microsoft is committed to the advancement of ethical AI. Learn more about our responsible, people-first approach.

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