Chinese facial recognition can now identify people wearing masks

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Chinese companies specialising in facial recognition have upgraded the technology to identify people wearing masks in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese company SenseTime, described as ‘the most valuable AI startup in the world’ and worth at least $4.5billion, is one of several firms improving its facial recognition to ensure a person cna be identified without them taking off their mask.

Instead of relying on having to see a person’s mouth, the system is able to learn a person’s identify from just their eyes and upper nose region of their face.  

People around the world are increasingly opting to wear medical masks and even respirators to prevent catching the potentially fatal COVID-19. 

The disease has claimed the lives of more than 2,700 people around the world and infected a total of around 80,000.  

Chinese companies specialising in facial recognition have upgraded the technology to identify people wearing masks in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. People around the world are increasingly opting to wear medical masks to prevent catching the potentially fatal COVID-19

Chinese companies specialising in facial recognition have upgraded the technology to identify people wearing masks in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. People around the world are increasingly opting to wear medical masks to prevent catching the potentially fatal COVID-19

SenseTime announced earlier this month that it was incorporating new features to its already omniscient system to combat masks and coronavirus. These include thermal imaging cameras (pictured) to identify people with a fever, a key indicator of coronavirus

SenseTime announced earlier this month that it was incorporating new features to its already omniscient system to combat masks and coronavirus. These include thermal imaging cameras (pictured) to identify people with a fever, a key indicator of coronavirus

A picture from SenseTime’s website shows the system identifying an employee who is wearing a mask. Such systems are in place in offices throughout China

A picture from SenseTime’s website shows the system identifying an employee who is wearing a mask. Such systems are in place in offices throughout China 

Researchers have been working on expanding facial recognition’s capabilities for several years, making it possible to identify people in glasses, wearing makeup, and with facial hair. 

But the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, which has now spread around the world and is thought by medical experts to be on the brink of a pandemic, has accelerated the technology’s roll-out. 

SenseTime announced earlier this month that it was incorporating new features to its already omniscient system to combat masks and coronavirus. 

These include thermal imaging cameras to identify people with a fever, a key indicator of coronavirus. 

SenseTime told Quartz this was currently live in three public locations. 

It has now also added the mask-proof algorithm to tighten its vice-like grip on the personal privacy of civilians. 

The system is widely used by Chinese authorities and can be used to keep tabs on people disobeying strict instructions that mandate residents must wear masks to halt the disease’s spread.

‘With these methods, management personnel are provided with a full range of epidemic prevention information such as body temperature, mask-wearing status, and employee identity,’ the company said in a statement.  

But the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan (pictured, people sorting out food in Wuhan), which has now spread throughout the world and is thought by medical experts to be on the brink of a pandemic, has accelerated the technology's roll-out

But the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan (pictured, people sorting out food in Wuhan), which has now spread throughout the world and is thought by medical experts to be on the brink of a pandemic, has accelerated the technology’s roll-out

Detection efforts have been ratcheted up to prevent an outbreak on the scale of Italy, where at least 11 people have died and 322 have been diagnosed in Europe's first major coronavirus crisis

Detection efforts have been ratcheted up to prevent an outbreak on the scale of Italy, where at least 11 people have died and 322 have been diagnosed in Europe’s first major coronavirus crisis

The disease has claimed the lives of more than 2,700 people around the world and infected a total of around 80,000

The disease has claimed the lives of more than 2,700 people around the world and infected a total of around 80,000

Stanford University postdoctoral fellow Amarjot Singh works on developing facial recognition using AI. 

He told the South China Morning Post: ‘Face recognition identifies a person by locating several key points on the face and connecting them together to form a unique person-specific signature.’

Traditionally, these include myriad markers around the eyes, nose and mouth. 

But recent developments have meant a match can be made from just markers placed around the eyes and nose. 

SenseTime’s algorithm is designed to use 240 facial feature key points but can make a match using just the parts of the face that are visible outside a mask. 

The company claims offices that use the system to identify and admit staff into the building will work without needing staff to take off their mask.  

‘The system that applies for office building entrances reads the facial characteristics that are not covered, including eyes, eyebrows and parts of the nasal bridge to identify employees,’ the company told Quartz. 

‘So that the employees can keep their masks on at all times while still gaining access to their offices.’

HOW DOES FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY WORK?

Facial recognition software works by matching real time images to a previous photograph of a person. 

Each face has approximately 80 unique nodal points across the eyes, nose, cheeks and mouth which distinguish one person from another. 

A digital video camera measures the distance between various points on the human face, such as the width of the nose, depth of the eye sockets, distance between the eyes and shape of the jawline.

A different smart surveillance system (pictured)  can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country 

A different smart surveillance system (pictured) can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country 

This produces a unique numerical code that can then be linked with a matching code gleaned from a previous photograph.

A facial recognition system used by officials in China connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets.

Experts believe that facial recognition technology will soon overtake fingerprint technology as the most effective way to identify people. 



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