How Facial Recognition Systems Are Evolving With COVID-Mask Situation


We are all aware of the hassle that goes into unlocking your phones using facial recognition while sporting a mask. While masks have undeniably hampered the use of facial recognition systems globally, the technology isn't ready to give up just yet. It might come as a surprise but donning a mask doesn't necessarily your face cannot be identified.

How Facial Recognition Systems Are Evolving With COVID-Mask Situation

Although there have been instances where masks have become a convincing excuse to use facial recognition in public, that's not completely true. Facial recognition has adapted well to the situation, and we might see more advanced systems that will be capable of identifying an individual with or without a mask.

Questionable Accuracy

With the pandemic crippling the whole world, more and more countries urged their citizens to use masks, thus representing a big challenge for facial recognition techs. It's a fact that algorithms developed to analyze faces will struggle to identify faces with masks.

Well, studies have backed these claims. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) put 89 commercial facial recognition systems under thorough testing and found a 5-50 percent error rate while matching faces with superimposed masks to normal photos of the same individual.

Adapting To The Situation

That said, some facial recognition systems do a great job of recognizing people with masks. In January, the US Department of Homeland Security found one such system during a test performed under a controlled environment. The system showed a 96 percent success rate; however, the results were vastly different between systems.

On basis of these results, the department said, "organizations that need to perform photo ID checks could potentially allow individuals to keep their masks on, thereby reducing the risk of Covid-19 infection."

Encouraging Contactless Experience

While it's difficult to determine how and where facial recognition is used in the public sector, there have places where the technology is paving the way to avoid physical contact.


Besides, there have been researches underway on making facial recognition techs work seamlessly on concealed faces, even before the pandemic occurred. Japan-based NEC has been working on a system for people who wear masks due to allergies, and it is claimed to be 99.9 percent accurate. The algorithm focuses on uncovered areas like eyes, ears, and forehead to identify a person with a mask.

The company aims to sell the system to offices and other facilities. It will encourage contactless verification, as it has become a norm after the coronavirus.

Future Of Facial Recognition

Considering the current COVID mask situation, the future of facial recognition might seem a little uncertain, but that's not the case. Japan has announced the use of facial recognition for security reasons during the Olympics, which will kick off in July this year.

Besides, Facebook is also said to be working on its facial recognition system that will embrace its smart glasses. However, Facebook's plans have received a lot of flak from privacy activists, who worry the tech can be used by stalkers. Well, be it masks or without masks, facial recognition systems might always be controversial. All we can be sure of is that the technology will only grow no matter what.

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