Sometimes you turn on the news and see a clip of an unknown perp robbing a convenience store. Problem is, police can't tell who the thief is because the video is so bad. But that might not be a problem anymore thanks to a French company called Vesalis and its bang-on facial recognition software. Originally designed for department store kiosks, and it's so good that it's caught the attention of the French government, which wants to use it for security reasons.

In its original form, the technology could instantly pick up on a face from a low-quality security camera feed and alert a salesperson on his or her iPad that the shopper had entered the building. The staffer could then look back at the customer's picture, name, and her past purchase history, and suggest for example, a lipstick she might like.


Because it works so well, pulling faces from such grainy, low-res footage, the French government wants to use it to keep tabs on its catalog of known "people of concern," which is similar to the Department of Homeland Security's terrorist watch list. In fact, it test drove the tech last October at a soccer game. It checked 20,000 people every 20 minutes against a database of 500 "problem individuals." It had a nearly perfect performance, with a 98 percent accuracy rate. Although in similar tests, the company's vice president of U.S. sales they've seen just a 61 percent success rate. But all that aside, it brings up some really amazing (and perhaps scary) possibilities when it comes to catching crooks. [IEEE Spectrum]