3D facial recognition project gets funding boost

A new type of advanced facial recognition system has received funding from Innovate UK, with a view to making the technology commercially available.

Developed by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) in conjunction with biometrics company Customer Clever, the high-resolution 3D system is claimed to be significantly more accurate than the 2D face mapping currently available. According to Lyndon Smith, professor of computer simulation and machine vision at UWE Bristol, the technology has a range of uses, from security and retail to hospitality and live events.

“Facial recognition technology is a powerful technique with many security applications,” said Smith, who operates out of Bristol Robotics Laboratory’s Centre for Machine Vision.

“Potential uses are increasing all the time but first we have to iron out problems with how the technology performs. Things which are easy for the human eye to deal with, like changes in background light and people looking in different directions, are big problems for this technology. There’s a difference between making the system work in the laboratory and doing so in a busy supermarket, where there are changes in lighting conditions and people walking around in the background.”

The two-year, government-backed project will receive £170,000 of funding to help bring the technology to market. As well as being more accurate than existing recognition software, Smith believes the 3D face mapping system would be less intrusive than fingerprint or iris scanners.

“Current available 2D systems may be fooled into incorrect identification whereas our 3D solution provides pinpoint accuracy mapping your face down to skin texture levels,” he said. “For national or high security, border control and locations where access control is paramount, our 3D solution provides an extra layer of confidence not available in many of the 2D solutions.”

“Our system produces what is effectively a fingerprint of the face – showing up fine detail and blemishes such as scars or wrinkles. The solution is quicker and more effective than fingerprint or iris recognition, which are more obtrusive to use.”