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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.