Unexpected Applications for Facial Recognition Technology

facial recognition, technlogy

Facial recognition technology has come a long way in the past few years and evolved beyond simply helping to identify people in Facebook albums or iPhoto. Now, this technology is being used to locate missing people, prevent theft, and many others.

Here are some interesting applications of facial recognition that may not be immediately obvious to many:


A Parisian business school, ESG, plans to use facial recognition as a way to tell if students are paying attention using a software called Nestor. Beginning in September, the software will be used in two online classes and will use webcams to analyze eye movements and facial expressions to determine if students are paying attention or slacking off.

The idea is for teachers to use this data to improve their lessons and make them more engaging. It can also then create test questions based on content that was covered when a student wasn’t paying attention, integrate with students’ calendars to suggest study slots, and track their online activity to suggest times to study.


Researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute have discovered a way to use facial recognition to identify a rare disease called 22q11.2 deletion syndrome or DiGeorge syndrome. The syndrome is hard to detect but can be recognized through certain facial features.


While facial recognition is now famously being used to prevent toilet paper theft in Beijing, it is also being adopted as a tool for preventing shoplifting by retailers closer to home.

Wal-Mart, for example, is using facial recognition software FaceFirst to scan the face of anyone who enters the store and identify potential shoplifters and send text alerts to store managers when suspicious behaviors are detected.

Privacy Protection

Snapchat has recently filed a patent which will allow the company to use facial recognition technology to protect its users’ identities. In the patent, Snapchat discusses the idea of using facial recognition to either refuse to share the images or covering the face with emoji to protect privacy.


Online payments are anything but easy, and the several steps of identity verification can be a tedious process when all you want to do is order your concert tickets already.

Alibaba’s affiliate payment service Alipay aims to simplify this process by using facial recognition, which will allow you to make an online payment by simply scanning your face on your smartphone.

Meanwhile, Mastercard has plans to launch a similar service called “Selfie Pay,” and companies like Uniqul are trying to normalize facial recognition as a form of in-store payments.

Find Missing Pets and People

Finding Rover is an app that allows owners and shelters post pictures of lost pets and then uses facial recognition to match them with other pictures hoping to reunite them with their families. A similar app, Helping Faceless, helps find missing children using the exact same concept as Finding Rover.


Interestingly, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is so much more scope for facial recognition technology to be applied as it becomes more sophisticated. As seen in these examples, privacy (or lack thereof) will likely be a huge factor in the overall acceptance of this technology, but just how else it will impact the future still remains to be seen.


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