An app demoed today at the MWC identifies individuals—and pulls up their profiles, with facial recognition—just by looking at them. That's some fancy futuristic stuff right there... although there may be darker side. UPDATED:
The Face.com-powered app from Comverse can recognize a friend or colleague and automatically show you links to their profile or pictures and let you message them without accessing your contact list. Great so far! But according to the press release, it's not just limited to the people you know:
# Acquaintances: The app has the potential to connect people before they even know each other's names. If you bump into someone who you met before and he or she looks familiar but you can't remember why, the app will locate that person's online profile to put a name to the face.
That could be awkward! Especially if you end up being able to access the Facebook profiles of everyone in a bar from when you walk in. Then again, I'm sure there are privacy protocols built in... although those are far from fail-safe.
Facial recognition is nothing new, but having it at the ready on your phone? Awesome, and hopefully minimally creepy. We'll have a better sense of how it plays once video and images are available.
UPDATE: We've heard from Face.com CEO Gil Hirsch, who assures me that the "acquaintance" feature still only applies to people with whom you're already friends with:
I wanted to weigh in here and clarify that "acquaintances" refers to people who are either already your friends or on your contact list, but for some reason you forgot their names... We've heard this need from most folks with 500+ "friends", and I'd love to know if you find this useful too. We know that some people get uncomfortable with the idea of facial recognition, but our intent is really to create cool technology that people find useful and can enjoy. We work really hard to help people feel comfortable with our service and always give people the chance to protect their privacy.
So looks like there's some privacy built in after all. Phew! Good to know I won't have to bring my ski mask out with me from now on.
Augmented Reality Gets a Major Face.com Lift
-Social Augmented Reality App Unveiled at Mobile World Congress-
Barcelona, Spain (February 15, 2010) - Face.com has powered the first-ever "Social Augmented Reality" app, developed by Comverse, the world's leading provider of software and systems enabling value-added services, BSS and active customer management, and IP communications. On demonstration today at the annual Mobile World Congress, the app dissolves the barrier between mobile and social network contacts to create a seamless world for its users.
Harnessing Face.com's superior facial recognition algorithms and its enormous database of faces, the "Social Augmented Reality" app functions in multiple capacities:
* Friends: When two friends are together and one wants to see the other's photos, the software will recognize the friend and offer direct links to his or her profile and pictures.
* Business: At the office, a colleague might request that you remind him or her about a report that is due. A quick scan and the app will identify the individual, allowing you to message him or her without ever looking through your address book.
* Acquaintances: The app has the potential to connect people before they even know each other's names. If you bump into someone who you met before and he or she looks familiar but you can't remember why, the app will locate that person's online profile to put a name to the face.
"Augmented reality was the first step to bridging the gap between on- and off-line worlds; now our technology takes it further," said Gil Hirsch, CEO, Face.com. "The Comverse app, utilizing Face.com facial recognition technology, closes the loop by merging face-to-face with virtual social communication."