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Face and Voice Biometrics Quickly Gaining Popularity

February 22, 2016

Recently Peter O’Niel at FindBiometrics interviewed our CEO Todd Mozer about Sensory’s recent announcement of TrulySecure 2.0, check out the interview here: FindBiometrics

Summary: The industry is embracing biometrics faster than ever and many CE companies and app developers are embracing face and voice biometrics to improve user experience and bolster security. Face and voice offers significant advantages over other biometric modalities, notably when it comes to convenience, and particularly in the case of our TrulySecure technology, accuracy and security.

Sensory’s TrulySecure technology has evolved dramatically since its release and recently we announced TrulySecure 2.0 that actually utilizes real world usage data collected from our “AppLock by Sensory” app on the Google Play store. By applying what we learned with AppLock, we were able to adapt a deep learning approach using convolutional neural networks to improve the accuracy of our face authentication. Additionally, we significantly improved the performance of our speaker verification in real world conditions by training better neural nets based on the collected data.

Overall, we have been able to update TrulySecure’s already excellent performance to be even better! The solution is now faster, smarter and more secure, and is the most accurate face and voice biometrics solution available.

Google Play Statistics Shows Ease of Use Correlates to Biometric Ratings

December 8, 2015

I saw an interesting press release titled “EyeVerify Gets Positive Feedback From Curious Users”. I know this company as a fellow biometrics vendor selling into some of the same markets as Sensory. I also knew that their Google Playstore rating hovered around a 3/5 rating while our AppLock app hits around a 4/5 rating, so I was curious about what this announcement meant. It made me think of the power of all the data in the Google Playstore, and I decided to take a look at biometric ratings in general to see if there were any interesting conclusions.

Here’s my methodology…I conducted searches for applications in Google Play that use biometrics to lock applications or other things. I wanted the primary review to relate to the biometric itself, so I excluded “pranks” and other apps that provided something other than biometric security.  I also rejected apps with less than 5,000 downloads to insure that friends, employees and families weren’t having a substantive effect on the ratings. I ran a variety of searches for four key biometrics: Eyes, Face, Fingerprint and Voice.

I did not attempt to exhaust the entire list of biometric apps, I searched under a variety of terms until I had millions of downloads for each category with a minimum of 25,000 reviews for each category. The “eye” was the only biometric category that couldn’t meet this criteria, as I had to be satisfied with 6,884 reviews. Here’s a summary chart of my findings:

Capturebig

As you can see, this shows the total number of downloads, the total number of apps/companies, the number of reviews and the avg rating of reviews per biometric category. So, for example, Face had 11 applications with 1.75 million total downloads and just over 25,000 reviews with an average review rating of 3.89.

What’s most interesting to me about the findings is that it points to HIGHER RATINGS FOR EASIER TO USE BIOMETRICS. This is a direct correlation as Face comes in first and is clearly the easiest biometric to use Voice is somewhat more intrusive as a user must speak, and the rating drops by .16 to 3.73, though this segment does seem to receive the most consumer interest with more than 5-million downloads. Finger is today’s most common biometric but is often criticized by its 2-hand requirement and that it often fails, requiring users to re-swipe, consumer satisfaction with fingerprint is about 3.67. Eye came in last, albeit with the least data, but numbers don’t lie, and the average consumer rating for that biometric comes in at about 3.42. If you consider the large number of reviews in this study and the narrow range of review scores (which typically range from 2.5 to 4.5), the statistically significant nature becomes apparent.

The results were not really a surprise to me. When we first developed TrulySecure, it was based on the premise that users wanted a more convenient biometric without sacrificing security, so we focused on COMBINING the two most convenient biometrics (face and voice) to produce a combined security that could match the most stringent of requirements.

 

Guest Blog – Rise of the Machines (Learning)

November 12, 2015

A really smart guy told me years ago that neural networks would prove to be the second best solution to many problems.  While he was right about lots of stuff, he missed that one!  Out of favor for years, neural networks have enjoyed a resurgence fueled by advances in deep machine learning techniques and the processing power to implement them.  Neural networks are now seen to be the leading solution to a host of challenges around mimicking how the brain recognizes patterns.

Google’s Monday announcement that it was releasing its TensorFlow machine learning system on an open-source basis underscores the significance of these advances, and further validates Sensory’s 22 year commitment to machine learning and neural networks.  TensorFlow is intended to be used broadly by researchers and students “wherever researchers are trying to make sense of very complex data — everything from protein folding to crunching astronomy data”.  The initial release of TensorFlow will be a version that runs on a single machine, and it will be put into effect for many computers in the months ahead, Google said.

Microsoft also had cloud-based machine learning news on Monday, announcing an upgrade to Project Oxford’s facial recognition API launched in May specifically for the Movember Foundation’s no-shave November fundraising effort: a facial hair recognition API that can recognize moustache and beard growth and assign it a rating (as well as adding a moustache “sticker” to the faces of facial hair posers).

Project Oxford’s cloud-based services are based on the same technology used in Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant and the Skype Translator service, and also offer emotion recognition, spell check, video processing for facial and movement detection, speaker recognition and custom speech recognition services.

While Google and Microsoft have announced some impressive machine-learning capabilities in the cloud, Sensory uniquely combines voice and face for authentication and improved intent interpretation on device, complementing what the big boys are doing.

From small footprint neural networks for noise robust voice triggers and phrase-spotted commands, to large vocabulary recognition leveraging a unique neural network with deep learning that achieves acoustic models an order of magnitude smaller than the present state-of-the-art, to convolutional neural networks deployed in the biometric fusion of face and voice modalities for authentication, all on device and not requiring any cloud component, Sensory continues to be the leader in utilizing state-of-the-art machine learning technology for embedded solutions.

Not bad company to keep!

Bernard Brafman
Vice President of Business Development

Banks Looking to Biometrics for Improved Customer Security

October 16, 2015

I saw a LinkedIn message to one of the biometrics groups in which I’m a member linking to a new video on biometrics:

I was quite surprised to see that I am actually in it!

It’s a great topic…Banks turning to biometrics. The video doesn’t talk too much about what’s really happening and why, so I’ll blog about a few salient points, worthy of understanding:

1)    Passwords are on their deathbed. This is old news and everyone gets it, but worthy of repeating. Too easy to crack and/or too hard to remember

2)    Mobile is everything, and mobile biometrics will be the entry point. Our mobile phones will be the tools to control and open a variety of things. Our phones will know who we are and keep track of the probability of that changing as we use them. Mobile banking apps will be accessed through biometrics and that will allow us to not only check balances, but pay or send money or speed ATM transactions.

3)    EMV credit cards are here…Biometric credit confirmation is next! Did you get a smart card from your bank? Europay, Visa, and MasterCard decided to improve fraud by shifting fraud risk based on security implemented. Smart cards are now, biometrics will be added to aid fraud prevention.

4)    It’s all about convenience & security. So much focus has been on security that convenience was often overlooked. There was a perception that you can’t have both! With Biometrics you actually can have an extremely fast and convenient solution that is highly accurate.

5)    Layered biometrics will rule. Any one biometric or authentication approach in isolation will fail. The key is to layer a variety of authentication techniques that enhance the systems security but don’t hurt convenience. Voice and face authentication can be used together, passwords can be thrown on top if the biometric confirmation is unsure, tokens or fingerprint or iris scans can also be deployed if the security isn’t high enough. The key is knowing the accuracy of match and increasing the security to the desired security level in a stepped function so as to maximize user convenience.

Sensory’s CEO, Todd Mozer, interviewed on FutureTalk

October 1, 2015

Todd Mozer’s interview with Martin Wasserman on FutureTalk

Sensory Joins the FIDO Alliance to Progress the State of Biometric Authentication

April 6, 2015

FIDO Alliance Member LogoLets face it, 20 years ago passwords made sense and were an easy and somewhat secure way for keeping our private stuff private. But today, as a result of countless cyber attacks on the public, minimum password requirements vastly skew from site to site, forcing many people to remember upwards of 20 (some highly complex) passwords. Thankfully, better methods for identity authentication exist, and an organization called the FIDO Alliance is working with numerous players in the space, Sensory being one of them, to change the nature of online authentication by defining an open, scalable, interoperable set of mechanisms that reduce the reliance on passwords.

As many of you already know, Sensory is a leading provider of deep learning face and voice recognition biometric solutions, and we believe that with solutions like TrulySecure, your face or voice alone can serve as a very accurate method for identity authentication, and when combined, offers the strongest level of security feasible. We have learned a great deal about how to utilize deep learning principles for biometric authentication and are working with the FIDO Alliance to have our solutions FIDO-Certified, which will enable us to offer them to customers of end-to-end FIDO solutions.

The FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) Alliance is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization nominally formed in July 2012 to address the lack of interoperability among strong authentication devices as well as the problems users face with creating and remembering multiple usernames and passwords. The FIDO Alliance plans to change the nature of authentication by developing specifications that define an open, scalable, interoperable set of mechanisms that supplant reliance on passwords to securely authenticate users of online services. This new standard for security devices and browser plugins will allow any website or cloud application to interface with a broad variety of existing and future FIDO-enabled devices that the user has for online security.

Interesting Announcements from Alibaba, Google and Microsoft

March 23, 2015

This month had three very different announcements about face recognition from Alibaba, Google, and Microsoft. Nice to see that Sensory is in good company!!!

Alibaba’s CEO Jack Ma discussed and demoed the possibility of using face verification for the very popular Alipay.

A couple interesting things about this announcement…First, I have to say, with a name like Alibaba, I am a little let down that they’re not using “Open Sesame” as a voice password to go with or instead of the face authentication… All joking aside, I do think relying on facial recognition as the sole means of user authentication is risky, and think they would be better served using a solution that integrates both face and voice recognition (something like our own TrulySecure), to ensure the utmost security of their customers’ linked bank accounts.

Face is considered one of the more “convenient” methods of biometrics because you just hold your phone out and it works! Well, at least it should… A couple of things I noticed in the Alibaba announcement: Look at the picture…Jack Ma is using both hands to carefully center his photo, and looking at the image of the phone screen tells us why. He needs to get his face very carefully centered on this outline to make it work. Why? Well, it’s a technique used to improve accuracy, but this improved accuracy, trades off the key advantage of face recognition, convenience, to make the solution more robust. Also the article notes that it’s a cloud based solution. To me cloud based means slower, dependent on a connection, and putting personal privacy more at risk.  At Sensory, we believe in keeping data secure, especially when it comes to something like mobile payments, which is why we design our technologies to be “embedded” on the device – meaning no biometric data has to be sent to the cloud, and our solutions don’t require an internet connection to function. Additionally, with TrulySecure, we combine face and voice recognition, making authentication quick and simple, not to mention more secure, and less spoofable than face-only solutions. By utilizing a multi-biometric authentication solution like TrulySecure,  the biometric is far less environmentally sensitive and even more convenient!

Mobile pay solutions are on the rise and as more hit the market differentiators like authentication approach, solution accuracy, convenience and most of all data security will continue to be looked at more closely. We believe that the embedded multi-biometric approach to user authentication is best for mobile pay solutions.

Also, Google announced that its deep learning FaceNet is nearly 100% accurate.

Everybody (even Sensory) is using deep learning neural net techniques for things like face and speech recognition. Google’s announcement seems to have almost no bearing on their Android based face authentication, which came in the middle of the pack of the five different face authentication systems we recently tested. So, why does Google announce this? Two reasons: – 1) Reaction to Baidu’s recent announcement that their deep learning speech recognition is the best in the world: 2) To counter Facebook’s announcement last year that their DeepFace is the best face recognition in world. My take – it’s really hard to tell whose solution is best on these kind of things, and the numbers and percentages can be deceiving. However, Google is clearly doing research experiments on high-accuracy face matching and NOT real world implementation, and Facebook is using face recognition in a real world setting to tag photos of you. Real-world facial recognition is WAY harder to perfect, so my praise goes out to Facebook for their skill in tagging everyone’s picture to reveal to our friends and family things might not have otherwise seen us doing!

Lastly, Microsoft’s announced Windows Hello.

This is an approach to getting into your Windows device with a biometric (face, iris, or fingerprint). Microsoft has done a very nice job with this. They joined the FIDO alliance and are using an on-device biometric. This approach is what made sense to us at Sensory, because you can’t just hack into it remotely, you must have the device AND the biometric! They also addressed privacy by storing a representation of the biometric. I think their approach of using a 3D IR camera for Face ID is a good approach for the future. This extra definition and data should yield much better accuracy than what is possible with today’s standard 2D cameras and should HELP with convenience because it could be better at angles can work in the dark. Microsoft claims 1 in 100,000 false accepts (letting the wrong person in). I always think it’s silly when companies make false accept claims without stating the false reject numbers (when the right person doesn’t get in). There’s always a tradeoff. For example I could say my coffee mug uses a biometric authenticator to let the right user telepathically levitate it and it has less than a 1 in a billion false accepts (it happens to also have a 100% false reject  since even the right biometric can’t telepathically levitate it!). Nevertheless, with a 3D camera I think Microsoft’s face authentication can be more accurate than Sensory’s 2D face authentication. BUT, its unlikely that the face recognition on its own will ever be more accurate than our TrulySecure, which still offers a lower False Accept rate than Microsoft – and less than 10% False Reject rate to boot!

Nevertheless, I like the announcement of 3D cameras for face recognition and am excited to see how their system performs.

An Inside look at Sensory’s Strategic Endeavors

January 21, 2015

I know it’s been months since Sensory has blogged and I thank you for pinging me to ask what’s going on…Well, lot’s going on at Sensory. There are  really 3 areas that we are putting a strategic focus on, and I’ll briefly mention each:

  1. Applications. We have put our first applications into the Google Play store, and it is our goal over the coming year to put increased focus on making applications and in particular making good user experiences through Sensory technologies in these applications.
    Download AppLock or VoiceDial
    These are both free products and more intended as a means to help tune our models and get real user feedback to refine the applications so they delight end users! We will offer the applications with the technology to our mobile, tablet, and PC customers so they can build them directly into their customers’ user experience.
  2. Authentication. Sensory has been a leader in embedded voice authentication for years. Over the past year, though, we have placed increase focus in this area, and we have some EXCELLENT voice authentication technologies that we will be rolling out into our SDK’s in the months ahead.
    Of course, we aren’t just investing in voice! We have a vision program in place and our vision focus is also on authentication. We call this fusion of voice and vision TrulySecure™, and we think it offers the best security with the most convenience. Try out AppLock in the above link and I hope you will agree that it’s great.
  3. TrulyNatural™. For many years now, Sensory has been a leader in on device speech recognition. We have seen our customers going to cloud-based solutions for the more complex and large vocabulary tasks. In the near future this will no longer be necessary! We have built from the ground up an embedded deep neural net implementation with FST, bag of words, robust semantic parsing and all the goodies you might expect from a state of the art large vocabulary speech recognition solution! We recently benchmarked a 500,000 word vocabulary and we are measuring about a 10% word error rate (WER). On smaller 5K vocabulary tasks the WER is down to the 7-8% range. This is as good as or better than today’s published state-of-the-art cloud based solutions!

Of course, there’s a lot more going on than just this…we recently announced partnerships with Intel and Nok Nok Labs, and we have further lowered power consumption in touchless control and always-on voice systems with the addition of our hardware block for low power sound detection.

Happy 2015!

Random Blogger Thoughts

June 30, 2014

  • TrulySecure™ is now announced!!!! This is the first on device fusion of voice and vision for authentication, and it really works AMAZINGLY well. I’m so proud of our new computer vision team and in Sensory’s expansion from speech recognition to speech and vision technologies. Now we are much more than “The Leader in Speech Technologies for Consumer Electronics”- we are “The Leader in Speech and Vision Technology for Consumer Products!” Hey check out the new TrulySecure video on our home page, and our new TrulySecure Product Brief. We hope and expect that TrulySecure will have the same HUGE impact on the market as Sensory had with TrulyHandsfree, the technology that pioneered always on touch less control!
  • Google I/O. Android wants to be everywhere: in our cars, in our homes, and in our phones. They are willing to spend billions of dollars to do it. Why? To observe our behaviors, which in turn will help provide us more of what we want…and they will also assist in those purchases. Of course this is what Microsoft and Apple and others want as well, but right now Google has the best cloud based voice experience, and if you ask me it’s the best user experience that will win the game. Seems like they should try and move ahead on the client, but lucky for Sensory we are staying ahead!
  • Rumors about Samsung acquiring Nuance…Why would they spend $7B for Nuance when they can pick up a more unique solution from Sensory for only $1B? Yeah, that’s a joke, and is definitely not intended as an offer or solicitation to sell Sensory!
  • OH! Sensory has a new logo! We made it to celebrate our 20 year anniversary!

Biometrics – The Studies Don’t Reveal the Truth

May 7, 2014

If you read through the biometrics literature you will see a general security based ranking of biometric techniques starting with retinal scans as the most secure, followed by iris, hand geometry and fingerprint, voice, face recognition, and then a variety of behavioral characteristics.

The problem is that these studies have more to do with “in theory” than “in practice” on a mobile phone, but they never-the-less mislead many companies into thinking that a single biometric can provide the results required. This is really not the case in practice. Most companies will require that False Accepts (error caused by wrong person or thing getting in) and False Rejects (error caused by the right person not getting in) be so low that the rate where these two are equal (equal error rate or EER) would be well under 1% across all conditions. Here’s why the studies don’t reflect the real world of a mobile phone user:

  1. Cost is key. Mobile phone manufacturers will not be willing to invest in the highest end approaches for capturing and measuring biometrics that are used by academic studies. This means less MIPS less memory, and poorer quality readers.
  2. Size matters. Mobile phone manufacturers have extremely limited real estate, so larger systems cannot be properly deployed, and further complicating things is that an extremely fast enrollment and usage is required without a form factor change.
  3. Conditions are uncontrollable. Noisy environments, lighting, dirty hands, oily screens/cameras/readers are all uncontrollable and will affect performance
  4. User compliance cannot be assumed. The careful placement of an eye, finger or face does not always happen.

A great case in point is the fingerprint readers now deployed by Apple and Samsung. These are extremely expensive devices, and the literature would make one think that they are highly accurate, but Apple doesn’t have the confidence to allow them to be used in the iTunes store for ID, and San Jose Mercury News columnist Troy Wolverton says:

“I’ve not been terribly happy with the fingerprint reader on my iPhone, but it puts the one on the S5 to shame. Samsung’s fingerprint sensor failed repeatedly. At best, I would get it to recognize my print on the second try. But quite often, it would fail so many times in a row that I’d be prompted to enter my password instead. I ended up turning it off because it was so unreliable (full article).”

There is a solution to this problem…It’s to utilize sensors already on the phone to minimize cost, and deploy a biometric chain combining face verification, voice verification, or other techniques that can be easily implemented in a user friendly manner that allows the combined usage to create a very low equal error rate, that become “immune” to conditions and compliance issues by having a series of biometric and other secure backup systems.

Sensory has an approach we call SMART, Sensory Methodology for Adaptive Recognition Thresholding that takes a look at environmental and usage conditions and intelligently deploys thresholds across a multitude of biometric technologies to yield a highly accurate solution that is easy to use and fast in responding yet robust to environmental and usage models AND uses existing hardware to keep costs low.

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