Augmented ID: Augmented Reality Facial Recognition for Mobile

As mobile phones continue to develop, the improvements to geolocation features, video capabilities, and processor speed combined with APIs from various web services are helping to make augmented reality the next big thing in mobile applications. On open platforms like Android, we’ve already seen amazing developments, including things like Layar, an augmented reality app that describes the world around you, and TwittARound, an app which shows you nearby tweets. But one of the items on our Augmented Reality wishlist – AU facial recognition – isn’t something we’ve seen come about just yet. It almost seems too futuristic to be real. And yet…here it is. Swedish software and design company The Astonishing Tribe is developing an AU concept called Augmented ID that “sees” people and tells you who they are.

How Augmented ID Works

AugmentedID uses facial recognition and tracking technology from a company called Polar Rose, a photo tagging startup. A few months ago, Polar Rose made the news when they released a tool that lets you tag your friends on flickr and then alert them that they were tagged via Facebook Connect integration. Although hyped as “facial recognition for flickr,” the technology isn’t a part of the photo-sharing site at all (although if Flickr was smart, they’d soon find a way to make that happen). Instead, Polar Rose, at its very core, is simply a facial recognition algorithm which pulls in photos from flickr to its site for tagging. It can also be integrated into any web site you own via a javascript widget. Apparently, it can now be integrated into mobile devices, too.

Polar Rose performs facial recognition by matching 3D models of faces, one of the three methodologies for performing this task. This technique captures the shape of the face and other distinctive features like the contour of the eyes, the nose, and the chin. The advantage of using this technique is that it’s not affected by low lighting scenarios – a useful feature when used in real-world mobile interfaces like that of Augmented ID.

Current Limitations and Future Possibilities

Unfortunately, in order for Augmented ID to know a person’s face to begin with, it appears you first have to set up an Augmented ID account. Once that’s done, you can maintain different profiles for your public persona versus your private one, switching between them as desired. Each profile has associated with it your contact information, web links, and information about your social networking profiles. Another Augmented ID user could then aim their phone at you and Augmented ID would recognize who you were and show them the appropriate profile – which is actually the video stream of you in real life with the various links sort of hovering around your head.

This isn’t exactly the ideal mobile facial recognition solution just yet since it requires both participants to use Augmented ID in order for it to work. But it is one step closer than anything else we’ve seen before. In a perfect world, however, anyone could use the app to identify anyone else – regardless of whether or not that person had created an Augmented ID profile.

Of course, implementing that type of feature would be difficult, but not impossible. Given the numerous public photos on the web, an app could, in theory, use its facial recognition technology to compare the 3D model of the face in the live video feed to those out there on the web as opposed to ones in its own database. A good place to start this matching process would be Facebook. Despite the millions upon millions of photos on that social networking site, facial recognition already exists there courtesy of the new app Photo Finder. Perhaps the two companies could even work together so the mobile app could query against the photos Photo Finder has already turned into 3D models for matching purposes. (Is that technically possible? If that’s your area of expertise, let us know).

That’s getting a little ahead of what Augmented ID actually does, but possibilities like this are exciting.

But For Now…

At the moment, Augmented ID is more of a mobile “concept” than it is a working application ready for download. Still, it’s only a matter of time before technology like this is adopted and put into use in the real world. In fact, that’s why TAT developed it in the first place. The Swedish company designs and builds products and services that “enhance the user experience of portable devices.” They work with OEMs including SonyEricsson, Motorola, S60, Samsung, Vodafone, and Orange as well as partners like Texas Instruments, Freescale, Teleca, Macnica Networks, Montavista, Nvidia, and Symbian. In other words, you may one day see this technology come built into your mobile device. But we’d settle for the Augmented ID mobile app -wouldn’t you?

Image credit: engadget

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