3D face imaging in 40 milliseconds

Computer scientists in the UK have developed a new face recognition software which can produce an exact 3D image of a face within 40 milliseconds. This technology should speed airport check-ins, but it could also be used in banks or for checking ID cards.

Computer scientists at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, have developed a new face recognition software which can produce an exact 3D image of a face within 40 milliseconds. A pattern of light is projected on your face, creating a 2D image, from which an accurate 3D representation is generated. This technology should speed airport check-ins, but it could also be used in banks or for checking ID cards as it allows full identification in less than one second.

This technology was developed at Sheffield Hallam University by the Geometric Modelling and Pattern Recognition Research Group of the Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI).

Here is what MERI’s Professor Marcos Rodrigues says about this new technology.

"This technology could be used anywhere there is a need for heightened security. It is well suited to a range of applications including person identification from national databases, access control to public and private locations, matching 3D poses to 2D photographs in criminal cases, and 3D facial biometric data for smart cards such as ID and bank cards. We have developed a viable, working system at the cutting edge of 3D technology."

Below are two screenshots showing the technology at work. (Credit: MERI)

3D face imaging at MERI: example #1

3D face imaging at MERI: example #2

These two screenshots have been extracted from a short movie available in different formats from this page about 3D Imaging at MERI.

But why similar systems have failed until now? The answer is provided by an article from Vision Systems Design, "Imaging technology may speed airport check-in."

Other 3-D systems, requiring 16 shots of the face, have proved unworkable because of the time it takes to construct a picture. The chance of movement during such a multishot process is extremely high, and if the face moves even a fraction then the 2-D to 3-D image is unworkable.

This is where the MERI's technology brings something new, including its accuracy -- and its low cost.

MERI also claims several other advantages for its technology. Hardware requirements are a projector and a single camera, making setup inexpensive--a few hundred pounds, compared with up to £40,000 for older systems. These need at least three or four cameras to capture an image, which means time-consuming parameters and complex calibrations.

Besides airports and banks, this technology could be used for industrial applications.

"Objects can go on a conveyor belt, and, instead of using a flat image, a 3-D image can help locate defects in them. Although we are focusing on security applications now, there is great potential in the future," said Rodrigues.

I sure hope that this system will go through extensive tests before being adopted.

Sources: Sheffield Hallam University news release, February 20, 2006; Vision Systems Design, February 27, 2006; and various web sites

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