It’s great to spot a familiar face — and now researchers have ‘cracked the code’ that our brains use to tell one apart from another.
Our memories of the faces of people we know focus on key facial features let us recognise them when we meet.
Volunteers were asked to rank how closely randomly-created digital faces matched with their memory of the face of a colleague.
This process was repeated over and over, revealing key identifying facial features of the colleague being remembered.
Computer software analysed the data on these instances of key features to recreate the faces in question.
The findings could be used to reconstruct faces described by witnesses to a crime more accurately, as well to make improvements in gaming and artificial intelligence.
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It’s great to spot a familiar face — and now researchers have ‘cracked the code’ that our brains use to tell one mug apart from another by getting volunteers to compare their memories of the faces of their colleagues with similar, randomly generated models
Researchers from the University of Glasgow showed pictures of four of their colleagues’ faces to fourteen other university members.
They then set about trying to determine which specific facial features that the participants used to identify their colleagues’ faces from memory.
Volunteers repeatedly compared their recollection of one of the four real people’s faces with six randomly generated faces of the same age, ethnicity and gender.
Participants then picked the randomly generated face that was most like their memory of the real person’s face and ranked how similar they were.
Researchers were then able to work backwards to determine which physical features are relied on to remember a given face.
‘It’s difficult to understand what information people store in their memory when they recognise familiar faces,’ said paper author and psychologist Philippe Schyns.
‘But we have developed a tool which has essentially given us a method to do just that.
‘By reverse engineering the information that characterises someone’s identity, and then mathematically representing it, we were then able to render it graphically.’
This let experts build up a picture of which features were key in our recollection of different faces — which they used to create a mathematical face-producing model (stock image)
Researchers then used a database of 355 digitally-captured faces, each of which was characterised by its shape and texture, to create a generative model of 3D face identity.
The team then used this to model to test the validity of their results, asking a new set of participants to rate the similarity between their recollections of a familiar face with random faces generated by the model.
By keeping the same shape and texture information relating to age, ethnicity and sex as the real faces, the researchers could isolate each face’s unique identity information.
This information was then used to produce entirely new faces. This stage of the process could be used to generate hyper-realistic faces for computer game characters, for example.
The full findings of the study were published in the journal
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, cheeky 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
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.