London Olympics to sport photometric stereo facial recognition technology

Published 25 January 2007

Intriguing approach uses a single camera and multiple sequential flashes to develop a “facial skin signature”; software uses slightly differing shadows to generate a 3D image of higher quality than conventional facial recognition systems; skin color and tone can both be identified

All eyes will be on London in 2012 when the city by the Thames hosts the Olympics. And just as China began its security preparations years ahead of its forthcoming 2008 games, city planners in London are already putting together what promises to be the most sophisticated security operation to date — an effort made all the more critical due to the city’s own recent and very real problems with terrorism. There are many things to look for in 2012 security-wise, but one thing that caught our eye was a new facial recognition software under development at Imperial College London in coordination with General Dynamic and Identity Solutions.

Of course, facial recognition technology is not new, but the Imperial College approach distinguishes itself by the use of photometric stereo, a technique that vastly improves the accuracy of facial mapping and identification by creating what the researchers call a “facial skin signature.” How does it work? The photometric stereo uses a series of lights and a fixed camera to generate an image. “When you have light coming from an angle on to a rough surface it creates shadows,” said professor Maria Petrou. “The position of the light determines where the shadow falls