Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Facial Recognition

September 30th, 2013

Yesterday in the gym I saw someone who I’d not seen for several years and who I’d hoped never to see again—or anyway, I thought I saw this person. The resemblance was uncanny: the same, unusual body shape; the same facial structure; the same hair; the same mannerisms. The only two points of doubt from my observation post on the treadmill were that this person might have been a bit too tall and a bit too young. But I wasn’t sure. Only much later during my workout, when I happened to hear the subject speak, did I know for sure this was a different person.

For me, a voice can be a much more certain identifier.

Like a lot of people, I’m terrible at facial recognition. I admit that part of this is laziness. If I’m casually introduced to someone I don’t expect to meet again, the name and face will breeze right out of my memory as I walk away. But part of it is just an inherent problem with facial recognition. Take a person out of the context in which I casually know them, change their hair style or color, change their weight, dress them in different clothes—and odds are excellent I won’t recognize them. This is one reason Cloud Atlas was a total fail for me. Most of the time, the continuity of actors completely escaped me.

Some people have an astonishing ability to recognize and remember others. My husband is one. More than once I’ve been in the situation of demanding to know how in the world he recognized that-person-who-looked-totally-different-from-before and “how can you possibly remember that person you worked with for a few days fifteen years ago?”

Ah well, we all know that talent is not evenly distributed.

But this is one reason I find conventions very intimidating. I could be introduced to someone and an hour later be uncertain if that is a face I should know. Yes, everyone wears name tags, but things can still be difficult.

So bring on augmented reality! Google Glasses or better yet, contacts, with a facial recognition program running off of a personal database of who-is-who in my world, while also tapping into shared Internet resources with all the skill of the NSA and Facebook combined, to identify the people I encounter. Oh, and could we include a brief bio while we’re at it? And deliver the information via voice, since I don’t want my eyes looking shifty as I try to read names and bios.

Uh…privacy concerns? What do you mean privacy concerns? I just want to know if I know you!

Posted on: Monday, September 30th, 2013 at 11:23 am
Categories: General.

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