What Happens When Facial Recognition Tools Are Available to Everyone

What Happens When Facial Recognition Tools Are Available to Everyone

Chances are, you’re already familiar with facial-recognition software, even if you’ve never spent time in an artificial-intelligence lab. The algorithm that Facebook uses for tagging photos, for example, is a version of facial-recognition software that can identify faces with 97.3 percent accuracy.

The problem with most of today’s facial-recognition software, however, is that it’s computationally very intensive and difficult to use for more than just matching simple photos. If you could speed up the process of recognizing faces, add the ability to track facial features and make it so easy that it could be used as a smartphone app by anyone – then it might open up important new opportunities.

That’s the goal of AI researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Sensing Laboratory. Starting in February, they will make available their facial-image-analysis software to fellow researchers. The software, known as IntraFace, is fast and efficient enough that it can be installed as a smartphone app.

For now, to give a preview of what to expect, the researchers have made available free demonstration smartphone apps, which show how IntraFace can identify facial features and detect emotions. These can be downloaded from the website for the Human Sensing Laboratory, from Apple’s App Store or from Google Play.

The project’s lead researcher, Fernando De la Torre, associate research professor in the robotics department of Carnegie Mellon University, said he is already starting to see enormous interest within the AI field for IntraFace. “Now it’s time to develop new applications for this technology. We have a few of our own, but we believe there are lots of people who may have even better ideas once they get their hands on it.”

Duke University medical researchers, for example, are using IntraFace as part of an advanced tool to screen for autism. Doctors and clinicians might be able to monitor or detect a number of pathologies, including depression or anxiety, by checking out facial expressions of patients.

One everyday use for facial-recognition analysis might be vehicles that can recognize a distracted driver behind the wheel. In the demo video for IntraFace, there’s the example of a father behind the wheel of a vehicle who turns around to comfort a screaming toddler in a car seat for a split second before being warned that he’s veered off the road.

And sales and marketing teams are going to love this once the technology becomes commercially available: Imagine being able to evaluate what people think about your products just by reading their faces. The Carnegie Mellon researchers refer to this as “audience reaction measurement,” and they see potential applications being used by public speakers to gauge how well they’re winning over the crowd. But you could also imagine biometric trackers on billboards, checking out how the crowd is responding to an advertisement.

You could also envision IntraFace being used by dating apps once the technology becomes commercially available. Not sure whether you should approach the target of your amorous intentions? Use the IntraFace app to read the facial features of that handsome guy or beautiful girl and get the green light to proceed.

IntraFace is the result of a decade of work by De la Torre and his colleagues, including Jeffrey Cohn, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and an adjunct professor in CMU’s Robotics Institute. The researchers used machine learning techniques to train the software to recognize and track facial features. The researchers then created an algorithm that can take this generalized understanding of the face and personalize it for an individual, enabling expression analysis.

However, as with any potentially breakthrough technology, there’s the flip side. Making facial recognition software widely available is surely going to attract the attention of consumer privacy advocates – it’s one thing if Facebook uses it to tag you or a friend in a photo; it’s quite another if a camera captures your expressions when you’re not expecting it. Just remember the commentary last year around the “creepy” aspects of DeepFace, Facebook’s facial-recognition software.

There might be national security implications, as well – being able to recognize the face of a terrorist in a crowd, for example, has always been one potential application for facial-tracking software. That type of technology, which once seemed to be just science fiction when it appeared in the first “Terminator” film, is already available to law enforcement agencies. The FBI, for example, uses facial-recognition software to match names to faces in a crowd, based on information in a biometric database.

On the whole, though, the positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to automated facial-expression analysis. For nearly 20 years, AI researchers have been working on it. Now it looks as if it may be coming to a smartphone near you in 2016.


What explains the astonishingly high number of accredited journalists in Andhra Pradesh?

What explains the astonishingly high number of accredited journalists in Andhra Pradesh?
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Information obtained by way of a Right to Information query shows that Andhra Pradesh has an astonishingly large number of journalists who have been given official accreditation by the state government: more than 15,000.

Compared to this, Karnataka has 815, Bihar 770, Punjab 450, Orissa 157, Jammu and Kashmir 81, Himachal Pradesh 76 and Goa 72 accredited journalists. Those figures are lower than the number of officially recognised journalists in any single district in Andhra Pradesh: upward of 900.

Accredited journalists are entitled to concessions on trains and buses and health facilities, among other benefits .

What explains this?

Some argue that the number of accredited journalists in Andhra Pradesh is high because of the large number of dailies in the state. Amar Devulapalli, secretary-general of Indian Journalists Union and consulting editor of Sakshi TV, brushed away allegations that Andhra Pradesh was accrediting journalists indiscriminately. “There is no hanky-panky,” he said.

However, according to a 2014-’15 report of the Registrar of Newspapers in India, the largest number of publications are published in Uttar Pradesh (5,506), followed by Madhya Pradesh (2,494), Delhi (2,465) and Uttarakhand (1,847). Andhra has only 1,648.

While the number of accredited journalists for some of the above states was not readily available, it is instructive to note that the number of accredited journalists in Rajasthan is 1,631, which has about the same number of publications – 1,660.

So what accounts for this high number?

“No qualification or experience is needed,” says TVR Rao of a channel called 6 TV. “I know a journalist who is 19 and got his accreditation card in three months.” Rao, who has been a journalist for 12 years, was accredited in 2005, after around a year on the job.

A journalist with a Telugu daily, who has worked in the state for past 30 years, said that political leaders attempt to ensure favourable coverage by giving journalists the benefits of accreditation.

Andhra’s mediascape

But why isn’t this happening in other states too?

Andhra Pradesh has a mix of TV news channels – mostly owned by politicians and businessmen. The Hoot, a media watchdog website, reported that out of 24 TV channels in Andhra, 21 are in the hands of corporate and political giants. “A few try to be neutral, but are hardly objective,” says the report.

For instance, Sakshi daily and its sister TV channel are owned by politician YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Chief minister Chandra Babu Naidu’s close aide Vemuri Radhakrishna owns ABN Andhra Jyothi. T News belongs to Telangana Broadcasting Private Limited, the official mouthpiece of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti.

Email queries sent to P Krishna Mohan, Andhra Pradesh’s Commissioner of Information and Public Relations Department, did not elicit any response.

Benefits of an accreditation card

According to the website of the Information and Public Relation Department, accredited journalists get access to several government facilities, including an employee health card that gives them and their families medical coverage of Rs 2.5 lakh every year.

Besides, accredited journalists get fare-waivers in Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation buses. They get free bus rides within the district and only have to pay 33% of the fare when travelling to other districts in the state. Accredited journalists also get 50% waive-offs in trains.

“Waive offs in trains and buses help journalists immensely,” said Suribabu S, a reporter with Eenadu in Visakhapatnam. “Journalists mostly apply for accreditation to avail these two benefits, health and travel.”

It is also possible for journalists to get a plot of land at a subsidised price: accredited Andhra journalists are entitled to 3.5 cents of land (around 1,500 sq ft) at less than market price.

Rules for accreditation

The accreditation process is theoretically governed by strict norms, and by that token is limited to journalists who fulfil those conditions.

According to Information and Public Relation Department, of Andhra Pradesh, there should be a two-tier accreditation committee – the state media accreditation committee and the district media accreditation committee to issue official recognition to journalists.

Rules laid down by the Information and Public Relation Department clearly state:

“he/she (journalists) shall have spent not less than five, three and two consecutive years in the profession of journalism for accreditation at State Headquarters, District Headquarters and at Mandal level respectively.”

But in practice, the management of the publication decides who should be given the card and sends names to the department, said Eenadu reporter Suribabu. Qualifications and experience do not matter much.

Devulapalli of the Indian Journalists Union admitted that there are loopholes in the accreditation process. “Sometimes the lower-level officials in Information and Public Relation Department take bribes for giving accreditation,” he said.

The outcome

Not everyone is pleased with the situation. “To say the least, it is extremely unethical on the part of journalists,” said former Deccan Chronicle journalist VS Krishna. “Some kind of racket is going on in the state.”

However, others argue that the benefits don’t amount to much. “The small favour one gets from government accreditation doesn’t really count for much,” said the bureau chief of an English national daily based in Visakhapatnam, requesting anonymity. “They mainly ensure better operations for a reporter working on the ground.”

Added a senior Telugu journalist based in Delhi: “You guys are barking up the wrong tree. Journalists don’t count. When the government already has media barons in its corner, who needs journalists?”


Here’s what to do if you’re ever hit by an avalanche. Tip No 1: Swim

Here's what to do if you're ever hit by an avalanche. Tip No 1: Swim9.6K
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The discovery of a soldier still alive six days after being caught in an avalanche on the Siachen glacier is nothing short of a miracle and seasoned mountaineers agree to this. A rescue team found Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad under a block of ice on February 8, where he had been trapped since the accident on February 3. Koppad was part of a 10-member team of soldiers caught in an ice fall at 19,600 feet above sea level.

There’s little you can do when you’re in an avalanche, said Wing Commander Amit Chowdhury, vice president of the Indian Mountaineering Federation, who has also had the frightening experience. Your body is rolling in all directions and you may not know which way is up and what is down. When the mayhem of the falling ice or snow ends there are four factors that determine survival – access to air, whether a victim’s airway is clear, how badly she has been injured in the fall and time.

Anil Gutroo, professor of medicine at Lady Hardinge Medical College explains why finding Koppad alive was so unexpected. “There is a 90% survival chance if you are found in 15 minutes. If you are buried for 90 minutes the survival chance falls to 20%,” said Gutroo, who survived an avalanche at Siachen nine years ago. Gutroo and two others were hit by a snow avalanche and he was buried in the snow for hardly five minutes before member of the Indian Army who were in the vicinity dig them out. Even though being caught in a slide of snow is less damaging than being hit by blocks of ice Gutroo had severe injuries –broken ribs, an injured back and wounds on his head that needed at least 20 stitches.

Here are some that Gutroo and Chowdhury recommend to increase your chances of surviving an avalanche.

Swim: Mountain climbers in avalanche prone regions are often told to try to “swim” in the snow. The thrashing motion of swimming helped a climber on Mont Blanc in Italy ride an avalanche for about 700 meters till it came to a stop.

Create an air pocket: After the avalanche the immediate problem is for a person buried in in the snow to find air. “After the avalanche settles, because it is cold an often below zero degree Celsius, snow freezes very quickly. What was fluid quickly becomes solid,” said Chowdhury. “What you must do is to draw your hands out in such a way that you quickly make a gap around you head and keep as much of air around you as possible till someone can dig you out.”

Protection from wind and cold: Up at the high altitudes where avalanches occur, cold is a big killer. But the avalanche-experienced know that being buried under snow and ice offers automatic insulation from the cold. If you are in a position to breathe easily and otherwise safe, stay protected from the wind.

Conserve energy: It’s going to be hard to tell how long you might be stuck on a snowy mountain. One of the smartest things you can do is to conserve you energy by remaining calm and not exerting yourself. “Without food and water, you can survive for seven days to a two weeks,” said Gutroo. “When temperature falls and there is hypothermia, the body’s metabolism slows and conserves energy. A cardiac arrest patient who has been buried in an avalanche has a better chance of being revived of he has survived, because cold preserves and sows down the metabolism and oxygen uptake. With slower metabolism the body can recover.”

If you see light, dig your way out: Having said that though, here’s a tip to figure out how deep you may be buried. “If you are under more than a meter of snow, then here won’t be any light. You may not even know which side is up,” said Chowdhury. “But if you are on a slope and you can actually see some light, then it’s worth trying to dig yourself out.”