Smile! You’ve Been Averaged

From Science:

Match If airports used today’s face-recognition technology to ID passengers, they would be wrong a lot of the time. But researchers have found a way to improve the technique: By replacing the standard photo on a person’s ID with an image generated by combining several shots of the individual, a team from the University of Glasgow in the U.K. dramatically boosted the technique’s accuracy.

Even human beings sometimes have difficulty recognizing people from their photographs, especially if the focus is blurry or the lighting poor. But as a face becomes more familiar, the brain improves at matching it to a photo. To explain this phenomenon, psychologists Rob Jenkins and A. Mike Burton came up with a model of how the mind constructs an image of a face from repeat encounters, distilling the essence of its features into a reliable mental representation. The researchers wondered if applying the model to a face-recognition system would improve its performance.

That’s exactly what they found when they tested the idea using a system that a few airports are trying out for small-scale recognition tasks, such as identifying airline crew members.

More here. (For Abbas after his JFK experience recounted in The Smart Set).