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Averaging Faces

February 28, 2008

Creating “averaged” faces from multiple photographs improves face recognition software.


Recognizing the average face. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Even sophisticated computer programs aren’t very good at recognizing human faces. That’s because our appearance changes from day to day. But psychologist Rob Jenkins of the University of Glasgow in Scotland has a solution. In a recent study, he and colleague Mike Burton created computerized composite photos of celebrities, by averaging dramatically different photos of each person.

ROB JENKINS (University of Glasgow, Scotland):
You had changes in hairstyle, facial hair, decades of aging, changes in weight and health, and changes in conditions under which the photo was taken.

Popular face recognition software identified the composites with 100 percent accuracy, compared to 54 percent for normal photos. Jenkins says that putting these composites on passports or other ID cards could make it possible to design rock-solid security systems. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.