London-based tech startup Blippar has added a real-time facial recognition feature to its augmented reality app, allowing users to identify a person by scanning their face. What was once a futuristic feature in sci-fi movies is now a simple tool in the hands of the everyday consumer.
Users of the app can simply point their smartphone at someone and Blippar will search its database of faces for the correct “Augmented Reality Face Profile.” Blippar recognises faces with over 99% accuracy and generates basic information such as name and biography as well as photos, celebrity lookalike, favorite music and mood. The app uses machine learning and facial recognition to function and can be used in in real life, on screen or on printed images. Approximately 70,000 public figures are already featured in its database such as Hillary Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II and Elvis Presley.
“Augmented Reality Face Profiles will change the way we communicate and express ourselves,” said Ambarish Mitra, co-founder & CEO at Blippar, in a statement. “Our face is our most expressive form of communication and with this release we are allowing this to become digital for the first time.” While large companies such as Facebook and Amazon have experimented with facial recognition before, Blippar offers something new with its profiling abilities.
For consumers, this feature will act as a new social tool and will allow users to discover more about their contacts and different people. This is part of a wider project by Blippar to become a “visual browser,” a visual Google of sorts that will allow consumers to better understand the world around them through their devices.
Facial recognition has massive implications for brands and advertising. While Blippar already empowers brands to bring their products and packaging to life with augmented reality (as shown by their work with Coca-Cola, Heinz, and McDonalds), the new feature takes it one step further by involving people. Brands could harness this technology to give consumers a look into their spokespeople, the people featured in their campaigns or the people that are most instrumental in their brand history. This is only the start – on a broader level, facial recognition could be used to tailor campaigns to an individual, as brought to life in sci-fi film Minority Report.
While some people may have concerns about anonymity and privacy, the start-up emphasizes that users must opt in and that celebrities on the database can remove themselves very easily. However, there are questions around whether the terms and conditions can change and whether privacy will become less and less of a priority with every update. Could the app eventually work in conjunction with Facebook or Twitter? Could it go one step too far? After all, Google banned facial recognition on Google Glass, citing privacy concerns. FindFace, a Russian facial recognition app that can determine someone’s identity with 70% reliability, faced criticism earlier this year for a similar app, particularly after it was used by trolls to identify and harass women featured in pornographic films.
If consumer concerns are put at the forefront, and products and services offer something truly valuable, the potential for engagement is high. Brands can take the lead and start harnessing facial recognition now, but they must be careful not to prioritize technology over privacy.