TOKYO — There’s a saying that whatever America invents, Japan often improves.
But the Japanese have their own bragging rights to cutting-edge facial recognition technology that Texans are now using.
“People don’t recognize the possibilities so far and we’re excited to see the momentum that’s building,” said Joseph Jasper, NEC spokesman in Tokyo.
Facial recognition is no longer Hollywood sci-fi. It is real world at NEC’s Shinagawa Innovation World Center in Tokyo. NEC’s software, called NeoFace, can pinpoint people in crowds, identify VIPs from those on watch lists, recognize their faces and alert nearby security officers.
There’s an even more fascinating software for surveillance cameras that can tell which way a person is looking. It’s called gaze detection and can tell which way someone is directing their eyes. In a demonstration, it marked me suspicious because I discreetly glanced up at the camera with my eyes without moving my entire face toward it.
“One useful aspect of this is for advertisers to have a camera behind their advertisement to see who’s looking at it and for how long,” Jasper explained. “It helps retailers organize their shops, to find out what items are popular.”
This isn’t just hi-tech fantasy and it isn’t just here in Japan. Turns out, this very technology is proving useful in Texas, too.
The National Soccer Hall of Fame in Frisco is already something to see. “It’s the most personalized experience in sports. That’s what we’re calling it,” said Daniel Hunt, FC Dallas President.
NEC’s facial recognition technology is taking this place to the next level.
“I love it because it delivers a workout. It’s interactive. And if you’re a parent of a small child, you can come in here and burn off some energy with your kids,” said Gina Miller, FC Dallas Vice President of Media and Communications.
Exhibits at the hall of fame can recognize visitors who register, and virtual reality lets them participate, play the game, design their own jersey and even photobomb iconic moments.
“I’ve been to a lot of museums and a lot of halls of fames and I’ve seen teams across the country and I know I’m biased but this is the coolest museum experience – maybe in the world,” Hunt added.
But in Irving, NEC’s facial recognition software is helping catch criminals.
“They gave us the technology to try out and we’ve been a customer ever since,” said Irving police chief Jeff Spivey.
In this application, NEC’s NeoFace software can take a frame from a surveillance video or a cell phone image – just a face with no name – and try to identify the individual against 15-years of mugshots from inmates who’ve been through the Irving jail.
Chief Spivey said it has already helped solve criminal cases. “Yes. This has been a game changer for our detectives in solving crimes because it takes an unknown subject and gives us a possible lead from that,” he explained. “It gives a detective somewhere to start.”
The Grand Prairie Police Department also uses the software, Spivey said. “When you return home, this could be used to turn on your lights. It could be used to unlock the door,” Jasper said of the software in five to ten years.
The innovative technology already captivates us, makes us safer and proves the future isn’t as far off as we might imagine.