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New Microsoft tech means your smartphone will know you're not just another pretty face

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:26PM EST

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Facial detection is a big emerging technology in the smartphone space and Microsoft Research Asia is working on staying at the cutting edge. Microsoft scientists released a software development kit this week that includes several of Microsoft’s latest face detection algorithms, including a face detection system that “tries to detect every face that appears in an image” and “identifies the face position of individuals pictured in the image” — a face alignment feature that can locate the individual elements of each face, including the eyes, mouth and nose; and, most intriguingly, a face tracking feature that can find individual faces during live video streams and thus let users “use head movement to interact with a Windows Phone.”

Microsoft has released three Windows Phone apps based on the algorithms so far: Face Swap, which lets users swap faces in and out of different bodies; Face Mask, which lets users cover up faces in pictures for people concerned about their privacy; and Face Touch, which lets users alter facial expressions in pictures just through touching them on the screen.

Qiufeng Yin, a software-development engineer at Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing, said this week that the SDK only supports general facial recognition — that is, recognizing an object as a face with eyes, nose, mouth, etc. — and cannot be used to identify individual faces.

“We are sure people can find many noble and legal uses for face-recognition technology—and have ways to mitigate the side effects—if such technology becomes widely available,” he said. “Over the long term we hope to see a wide spectrum of different applications taking advantage of the unique advantage of human face interaction, especially in the area of digital entertainment.”


Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.