Like a hungry wolf, Amazon's pattern recognition software can now detect fear (plus seven other emotions) in humans.
Amazon assures that the system, Rekognition, could already highlight those people who were happy, sad, angry, surprised, disgusted, calm or confused. It can also accurately determine a person's age and gender, and works with videos and still images.
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“Today we are launching the accuracy and functionality of improving our facial features analysis,” the company says in a blog post.
"Face analysis generates metadata about identified faces in the form of gender, age, emotions, attributes such as 'smile', face, posture, face, image quality, and city face."
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There are many reasons why detecting a person's emotions can be helpful. It can tell the advertiser how the person is reacting to the product, to allow medical professionals to help patients who are non-verbal, or (in theory) to help law enforcement spot people who are behaving suspiciously in public.
This last app is the most controversial as it can lead to false positives, which is why San Francisco has decided to ban police from facial recognition in the city.
Although not everywhere it is so hesitant. In the UK, police are monitoring real-time facial recognition to detect risks at crowded events such as music festivals, and a property company in London recently admitted to using the technology "in the interest of public safety" to widespread alarm.
Rekognition may now be more accurate, but Amazon has its work cut out to make facial recognition acceptable in public places.
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