This Facial-Recognition AI Knows Your Girlfriend's Face Better Than You Do

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If someone showed you a group photo containing your boyfriend or girlfriend, you could probably spot them without much trouble. But what if the photo was from ten years ago? Or what if their face was partially obscured? What if it contained thousands of people? That's when you might need artificial intelligence to help you out.

Chinese tech firm Yitu has perfected its facial recognition AI to such a degree that it can now identify faces faster than humans - even when they are intimately familiar with the face in question. Welcome to the next creepy stage of video surveillance.

One of the more tangible benefits of artificial intelligence is face, object and character recognition. The technology is being rapidly adopted by a wide range of industry sectors, including transportation, medicine, finance and of course, security.

The latest crowd-tracking products and services are sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a person holding a knife and a person holding a phone inside a crowded stadium. It can then send an alert to nearby authorities, all within seconds of the knife being brandished.

During Huuawei Connect 2017, Yitu's co-founder and CEO Leo Zhu explained how the company's cloud-based visual recognition engine "Dragonfly Eye" has become an indispensable tool for law enforcement and security agencies. Its clients range from China Customs to police bureau and banks.

At a recent Face Recognition Vendor Test organised by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Yitu came first with an accuracy rating of 99.5 per cent. FRVT is considered one of the toughest industry benchmarks, with real-world scenarios provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In other words, the "win" is a significant feather in Yitu's cap.

"For some time, AI has been able to identify the face of a stranger faster than humans," Zhu said. "Our AI is now better than humans at recognising familiar faces too."

During the presentation, Zhu gave a live demonstration of the technology in action. Equipped with an ID photo of a Huawei executive, the AI was able to track him down wandering the convention hall via AI-equipped cameras within seconds. Crazy stuff.

Alarmingly for Chinese motorists, Yitu's technology is also capable of detecting traffic violations and identifying the vehicle's owners. Arguing your way out of a speeding ticket could soon be a lot harder.

Lifehacker attended Huawei Connect 2017 as a guest of Huawei.

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