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The coronavirus pandemic has seen the majority of people start wearing face masks when they are out in public. Due to the fact these masks cover up half of our face, they pose a problem for existing facial recognition systems. NEC claims to have solved that problem with its latest tech, though.
Studies have shown that facial recognition algorithms created before the pandemic are easily confused when their subject matter is wearing a mask. As Reuters reports, NEC is ahead of the curve because the company was already working on a recognition system capable of dealing with masks before the pandemic started. Mask wearing is common in Japan, with individuals choosing to use them either when ill or suffering from allergies.
“Needs grew even more due to the coronavirus situation as the state of emergency (last year) was continuing for a long time, and so we’ve now introduced this technology to the market,” said Shinya Takashima, assistant manager of NEC’s digital platform division. “Touchless verification has become extremely important due to the impact of the coronavirus,” he said. “Going forward we hope to contribute to safety and peace of mind by strengthening (efforts) in that area.”
NEC is claiming an accuracy rate of more than 99.9 percent with recognition happening in under a second even when a mask is worn. It works by first detecting a mask is being worn before focusing its recognition work on features of the face that remain visible. A photo of a person’s face is required for the system to work, though.
NEC has been selling this new system since October and airlines have been especially keen to adopt it. Both Lufthansa and Swiss International Airlines are customers. And while privacy advocates may despair at such a system, for now it means a face mask doesn’t need to be removed during the pandemic in order for an identity to be verified.
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