The media has gone into a frenzy over Google’s latest facial recognition patent that shows an algorithm can track you across social media and gather your personal details. We thought, we’d dive further into what other patents Google has applied for in facial recognition tehnology in 2018. What we discovered was an eye opener (pun intended).
Google is only the 3rd largest applicant with IBM and Samsung leading the patents race in facial recognition. As of 10th Aug, 2018, 1292 patents have been granted in 2018 on Facial recognition. Of those, IBM received 53. Here is the summary comparison of leading companies in facial recognition patents in 2018.
IBM has always been at the forefront of innovation. Let’s go back about a quarter of a century, when IBM invented its first general-purpose computer for business. It built complex software programs that helped in launching Apollo missions, putting the first man on the moon. It’s chess playing computer, Deep Blue, back in 1997, beat Garry Kasparov, in a traditional chess match (the first time a computer beat a world champion). Its researchers are known for winning Nobel Prizes.
Coming back to 2018, IBM unveiled the world’s fastest supercomputer with AI capabilities, and beat the Wall Street expectations by making $20 billion in revenue in Q3 2018 last month, with market capitalization worth $132.14 billion as of August 9, 2018. Its patents are a major part of why it continues to be valuable highly.
IBM continues to come up with cutting-edge innovations and to protect these proprietary inventions, it applies for patent grants. United States is the largest consumer market in the world, so patenting the technologies that the companies come out with is a standard way to attain competitive advantage.
|As per the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Patent is an exclusive right to invention and “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States”.
As always, IBM has applied for patents for a wide spectrum of technologies this year from Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, Blockchain, Cybersecurity, to Quantum Computing. Today we focus on IBM’s patents in facial recognition field in 2018.
Four IBM facial recognition innovations patented in 2018
Facial recognition is a technology which identifies and verifies a person from a digital image or a video frame from a video source and IBM seems quite invested in it.
Controlling privacy in a face recognition application
Date of patent: January 2, 2018
Filed: December 15, 2015
Features: IBM has patented for a face-recognition application titled “Controlling privacy in a face recognition application”. Face recognition technologies can be used on mobile phones and wearable devices which may hamper the user privacy. This happens when a “sensor” mobile user identifies a “target” mobile user without his or her consent. The present mobile device manufacturers don’t provide the privacy mechanisms for addressing this issue. This is the major reason why IBM has patented this technology.
|Editor’s Note: This looks like an answer to the concerns raised over Google’s recent social media profiling facial recognition patent.
How it works?
It consists of a privacy control system, which is implemented using a cloud computing node. The system uses a camera to find out information about the people, by using a face recognition service deployed in the cloud. As per the patent application “the face recognition service may have access to a face database, privacy database, and a profile database”.
The facial database consists of one or more facial signatures of one or more users. The privacy database includes privacy preferences of target users. Privacy preferences will be provided by the target user and stored in the privacy database.The profile database contains information about the target user such as name, age, gender, and location.
It works by receiving an input which includes a face recognition query and a digital image of a face. The privacy control system then detects a facial signature from the digital image. The target user associated with the facial signature is identified, and profile of the target user is extracted. It then checks the privacy preferences of the user. If there are no privacy preferences set, then it transmits the profile to the sensor user. But, if there are privacy preferences then the censored profile of the user is generated omitting out the private elements in the profile.
There are no announcements, as for now, regarding when this technology will hit the market.
Evaluating an impact of a user’s content utilized in a social network
Date of patent: January 30, 2018
Filed: April 11, 2015
Features: IBM has patented for an application titled “Evaluating an impact of a user’s content utilized in a social network”. With so much data floating around on social network websites, it is quite common for the content of a document (e.g., e-mail message, a post, a word processing document, a presentation) to be reused, without the knowledge of an original author.
Because of this, the original author of the content may not receive any credit, which creates less motivation for the users to post their original content in a social network. This is why IBM has decided to patent for this application.
As per the patent application, the method/system/product “comprises detecting content in a document posted on a social network environment being reused by a second user. The method further comprises identifying an author of the content. The method additionally comprises incrementing a first counter keeping track of a number of times the content has been adopted in derivative works”. There’s a processor, which generates an “impact score” which represents the author’s ability to influence other users to adopt the content. This is based on the number of times the content has been adopted in the derivative works. Also, “the method comprises providing social credit to the author of the content using the impact score”.
|Editor’s Note: This is particularly interesting to us as IBM, unlike other tech giants, doesn’t own a popular social network or media product. (Google has Google+, Microsoft has LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are social, even Amazon has stakes in a media entity in the form of Washington Post).
No information is present about when or if this system will be used among social network sites.
Spoof detection for facial recognition
Date of patent: February 20, 2018
Filed: December 10, 2015
Features: IBM patented an application named “Spoof detection for facial recognition”. It provides a method to determine whether the image is authentic or not. As per the patent “A facial recognition system is a computer application for automatically identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or a video frame from a video source.”
|Editor’s Note: This seems to have a direct impact on the work around tackling deepFakes, which incidentally is something DARPA is very keen on. Could IBM be vying for a long term contract with the government?
How it works?
The patent consists of a system that helps detect “if a face in a facial recognition authentication system is a three-dimensional structure based on multiple selected images from the input video”.
There are four or more two-dimensional feature points which are located via an image processing device connected to the camera. Here the two-dimensional feature points do not lie on the same two-dimensional plane. The patent reads that “one or more additional images of the user’s face can be received with the camera; and, the at least four two-dimensional feature points can be located on each additional image with the image processor. The image processor can identify displacements between the two-dimensional feature points on the additional image and the two-dimensional feature points on the first image for each additional image”
There is also a processor connected to the image processing device that helps figure out whether the displacements conform to a three-dimensional surface model. The processor can then determine whether to authenticate the user depending on whether the displacements conform to the three-dimensional surface model.
Facial feature location using symmetry line
Date of patent: June 5, 2018
Filed: July 20, 2015
Features: IBM patented for an application titled “Facial feature location using symmetry line”.
As per the patent, “In many image processing applications, identifying facial features of the subject may be desired. Currently, location of facial features require a search in four dimensions using local templates that match the target features. Such a search tends to be complex and prone to errors because it has to locate both (x, y) coordinates, scale parameter and rotation parameter”.
The application consists of a computer-implemented method that obtains an image of the subject’s face. After that it automatically detects a symmetry line of the face in the image, where the symmetry line intersects at least a mouth region of the face. It then automatically locates a facial feature of the face using the symmetry line.
There’s also a computerised apparatus with a processor which performs the steps of obtaining an image of a subject’s face and helps locate the facial feature.
|Editor’s note: Atleast, this patent makes direct sense to us. IBM is majorly focusing on bring AI to healthcare. A patent like this can find a lot of use in not just diagnostics and patient care, but also in cutting edge areas like robotics enabled surgeries.
IBM is continually working on new technologies to provide the world with groundbreaking innovations. Its big investments in facial recognition technology speaks volumes about how IBM is well-versed with its endless possibilities. With the facial recognition technological progress, come the privacy fears. But, IBM’s facial recognition application patent has got it covered as it lets the users set privacy preferences. This can be a great benchmark for IBM as no many existing applications are currently doing it.
The social credit score evaluating app can really help bring the voice back to the users interested in posting content on social media platforms. The spoof detection application will help maintain authenticity by detecting forged images. Lastly, the facial feature detection can act as a great additional feature for image processing applications.
IBM has been heavily investing in facial recognition technology. There are no guarantees by IBM as to whether these patents will ever make it to practical applications, but it does say a lot about how IBM thinks about the technology.