In terms of the I Ching, the facial recognition market is at the sprouting stage represented by Hexagram 3 (屯/zhūn). Having been invented in the mid-sixties, it’s only been in the past few years that the green shoots of the technology have started to push through the hard surface of the ground and emerge in the sunlight.
Security and surveillance has of course proven to be the most fertile patch for facial recognition to grow on fueled by increasing fears of crime and terrorism. As the technology continues to improve and the cost of installing and managing the systems follows its inevitable downward curve, it’s set to proliferate at a rapid rate. Watch out for a worldwide CCTV upgrade cycle!
Airports, railway stations, and other transportation hubs are providing a particularly lush environment for facial recognition and its close cousin object detection to flourish in. What better way is there to process the tickets and IDs of the millions of people who travel every day – not to mention identify suspicious bags and people? Perhaps there’ll even come a day when not a single suitcase is lost during the baggage handling process thanks to the superior tracking capabilities enable by the technology.
A more surprising source of growth has been in so-called Customer VIP systems that identify consumers when they come in range of their camera, deliver personalized welcomes, and recommend product purchases based on your age, sex, emotions, and past purchasing history. Last week at Mobile World Congress Shanghai, people were even talking about how to create games to make these systems even more engaging for consumers. It’s no longer a question of if facial recognition and entertainment technologies will merge – but when.
Facial recognition is thus on the verge of entering Hexagram 4 territory: Youthful Folly (蒙/méng). No doubt there will be lots of mistakes during those difficult teenage years, but with the right stewardship from government and industry it’s sure to mature into a productive and responsible adult.