Facial Recognition on Facebook (Video)

I met somebody who looks just like you. And someone who looks just like me. And someone who looks just like our friend…

A new application on Facebook lets you find your doppleganger. Thanks, Coke!
A new application on Facebook lets you find your doppelganger. Thanks, Coke!

As a means of promoting Coke Zero, the Coca Cola company hired ad firm Crispin Porter & Bogusky (CPB Group) to produce the next hot Facebook application. The Coke Zero Facial Profiler scans uploaded pictures with facial recognition software to find someone who looks like you, but isn’t. While it doesn’t do much besides play facial matchmaker, the application is being toted by CPB as an experiment in social networking, and I have to admit that it’s a great way to waste some time. Still, is it curiosity or just narcissism if you want to meet someone who looks like yourself? Check out the commercial for the Facial Profiler after the break and decide for yourself.

Typical facial recognition (FR) software uses key indicators on your face (nose width, eye spacing, etc) to create a dynamic profile of your features. The Coke version likely runs on the same sort of algorithms that protect Heathrow airport, and are becoming more common in security check points around the world. It says something about the advancement of this technology that it is now available as an advertising gimmick on Facebook. As trivial as the application may be, even this version of FR has a limited learning ability to better help it pair one face to another. Eventually higher resolution cameras and better artificial intelligence may allow FR to replace many uses of identification cards . In the next decade FR may synchronize with multimedia digital mobile interfaces to provide us with augmented reality information about the people we meet. The real world could become a physical version of Facebook.

As powerful as this technology could be, the Facial Profiler doesn’t run error free. It took me several tries to get it to find someone who looks vaguely like me, and even then I think it was matching the ambient lighting as much as it was my facial features. There are recommendations for maximizing the accuracy of the program, and these help, but expect to spend a few minutes working on your photos, or taking new ones with a webcam. And, a note of warning, the application has been floating in and out of service recently (as of the time of writing).

Facial Profiler also gains indefinite rights to your photos while it is active, which is going to raise some privacy concerns with some users. Still, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of photos have already been submitted to the application, so many people seem to be okay with the application grousing through their images. As more pics are added, and users help refine the facial recognition selection process, those interested are more likely to find a reasonable facsimile of themselves.

It’s too early to see if Facial Profiler gets to be the next popular time-waster on Facebook. I’m excited to find out, however, if facial recognition is just the first of many advancing technologies which are going to get the Facebook twist. Augmented Reality, wireless health monitoring, universal translators…any of these could be picked up and turned into a social networking add-on. Who knows, maybe one day Pepsi will team up with Complete Genomics to let you find people on Facebook who share the cool bits of your whole genome. Genetic friends search? Yeah…maybe that’s a bad idea.

[screen capture and video credit: Coca Cola Company]

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