A left-over fur hat found its place on the robot, which has a projector to animate its face. Photo: KTH
science and technology

Robot head in research to improve ID systems

"Like a mannequin with a moving face"
4:59 min

Do YOU look like the photo in your passport or your ID-card? You may think so, but the border guard may not. In fact, most people are pretty bad at recognising faces that they are not already familiar with. Studies show that six out of ten attempts to use fake photo-IDs are successful.

Now researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology - KTH - in Stockholm are trying to find out what it is that make us recognise someone. The findings could help develop a better way for us to interact with people who are not physically there - like a tele-conference in 3D.

What is it about a face that make us remember it? Take a picture of a loved one, and turn it upside down - and you may actually have difficulties in recognising who it is. And you will most certainly have problems in deciphering what mood the person is in - just because the angle of how you see the face has changed.

So if the angle we see a face is important for recognition - what else is? Well, movement for example, it is easier to recognise a face if it is not still. Now Jonas Beskow, one of the researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology, wants to find out what adding a dimension from 2D to 3D will mean.

Jonas Beskow has specialised in animation, while his colleague Haibo Li has worked with face recognition. Together, they will use the robot head called "FurHat" for the research.

FurHat is a robotic head on a movable neck, and with a tiny projector inside, which will project a face onto the blank facial features of the head or the "mask" if you like. the name comes from the distinctive hat that covers its machinery, or its "brain" if you want.

To find out more about how we recognise a face, Jonas Beskow and his colleague will project different faces onto different masks on FurHat, and show them to people to see how well they recognise and remember the faces they see. The results of the study are sure to be of interest to the security sector, at airports and in CCTV-technology. But Jonas Beskow also hopes it could help improve the teleconference system. To hear more, click on the link above.

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