U.S. Army Can Now Use Facial Recognition Technology In The Dark

The new technology uses thermal heat maps of people's faces to determine their identity in a biometric database.

Army developed facial recognition technology for use in the dark.
Artem Oleshko / Shutterstock

The new technology uses thermal heat maps of people's faces to determine their identity in a biometric database.

There’s been an advancement to facial recognition technology, thanks to the U.S. Army. Researchers figured out a new facial recognition process which uses A.I. and a person’s heat map, according to the Washington Times. The three researchers that worked together to develop this technology are Dr. Benjamin Riggan, Nathaniel Short, and Shuowen Hu. Riggan described the method.

“This technology enables matching between thermal face images and existing biometric face databases/watch lists that contain visible face imagery.”

The facial recognition technology requires a FLIR Boston 320 thermal camera. Researchers are calling it a “synthesized visible image,” because it takes a person’s heat map and compares it to a biometric database to find a match. Novus Light added that this breakthrough can be used whenever there is low light or when it’s nighttime. The biometric database includes data gathered from criminal records and watch lists.

In particular, this technology uses information from a person’s face and also focuses in on people’s features like eyes, nose, and mouth. This process uses what’s called a “convolutional neural network.”

The researchers proved their feat by demonstrating the technology in near-real-time. They won an award for their work at the IEEE Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision, which took place last month.

Researchers pointed out that there’s been a lot of progress and work on the visible recognition technology, but that visible technology is not as effective as thermal technology. This could be in part because a person’s heat map is based on the heat that one’s body gives off, which is specific to each person.

Thermal cameras are already in use by the military in their planes, watchtowers, checkpoints, and more. Also, body cameras increasingly have thermal capabilities.

Facial recognition technology has been in the news recently due to Facebook’s use of the technology without users’ explicit consent. There is a class action suit in progress in Illinois, claiming that Facebook’s feature of “tag suggestions” of friends is illegal, detailed the BBC.

The technology is also well-known to iPhone X users that have enabled the “Face ID” feature, which allows people to unlock their phones with their face. Computer World added that the technology is likely to be implemented in everyday settings, including the workplace and at airports.