Home Facial Recognition Comes to iOS 5 via New Developer Tools

Facial Recognition Comes to iOS 5 via New Developer Tools

All the way back in January, we speculated that Apple would introduce its then recently acquired facial recognition technology into the upcoming iPhone 5. Now, it seems that prediction has come true – and not just for the iPhone 5, but for any iPhone capable of upgrading to the new mobile operating system iOS 5.

Developers to Get Access to Facial Detection Tools

The Apple-tracking site 9to5Mac first discovered the new facial detection tools on Apple’s Developer website. According to the blog post, the technology will not be implemented in an Apple-provided mobile application, like its Photo Gallery, for example, but will be offered to mobile developers for use in third-party applications sold in the iTunes App Store.

Specifically, Apple is introducing 5 new iOS 5 APIs (application programming interfaces), which will allow developers to determine things like where a person’s eyes, nose and mouth are located – all things that enable facial detection and facial recognition.

The Polar Rose Connection

The technology that makes this possible comes from a 2010 acquisition of a Swedish company called Polar Rose, which previously designed consumer-facing services that enabled you to automatically tag your Facebook and Flickr photos with your friends’ names. While it’s beyond exciting to think about how this technology can be implemented in the future by Apple’s large developer community, it’s odd to think that Apple itself wouldn’t also include some interesting facial recognition features of its own into its mobile operating system.

For example, 9to5Mac notes that face detection tools are already available on the Mac, so why wouldn’t Apple also provide something similar for your iPhone (or iPod Touch, or iPad) photos? Those name tags could then be synced either manually over USB or via Apple’s new iCloud service to your Mac, where they would be recognized by Apple’s photo management software.

Why Nothing from Apple Itself?

Could it be that Apple is holding back on implementing facial recognition out of fear of a backlash, similar to what Facebook is experiencing now? Facebook added facial recognition for U.S. users last year, and to the world last month, in order to help suggest tags for the faces present in photos users uploaded to the service. But thanks to an overly paranoid user base (probably due to Facebook’s continual mismanagement of user privacy amid an array of confusing settings), privacy advocates insisted on improved opt-out options for this new feature.

Google, too, reportedly has facial recognition technology in development which allows mobile phones to recognize the people seen within the camera’s lens. Supposedly, Google has held back on releasing this technology due to privacy concerns.

If we know Apple, it will let other companies take the brunt of abuse for implementing these “new-fangled” innovations, wait until consumers are more comfortable with the technology, then release an update that radically improves on the overall user experience through ease-of-use and good design.

In the meantime, wouldn’t it be nice to see a simple facial detection device unlock feature like this jailbreak app (below) come to the next iPhone? That wouldn’t be too invasive, we think. What do you think, Apple?

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