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What once started life as a Kinect-style camera providing touch-free interaction has evolved into something pretty advanced. January 6th saw the release of Intel’s new RealSense ID. The technology builds on their depth-sensing technology and is now geared towards facial recognition. It aims to provide a secure on-device solution for business use utilizing a neural network. It is plain to see that the tech has come a long way. However as others have pointed out such as Ian Carlos Campbell for theverge, RealSense ID is stirring up a little controversy. This is because of the potential for abuse, which we will discuss a little later on. But first, you might want to know a little more about RealSense ID.

To identify faces, RealSense ID uses a secure element to encrypt data and keep it safe. It is a system-on-a-chip set-up; this module can function as a stand-alone piece of kit that simply requires plugging into a computer, or you can integrate it into other devices. And a that encrypts and processes user data. As to Gizmodo, RealSense ID should learn and adapt to a face over time, working around facial hair, a variety of different skin tones, and face masks.

RealSense ID, Intel's cameras are being used for facial recognition tech
RealSense ID should learn and adapt to a face over time. Image credit: theverge.com

The tech itself is by no means new, it has just seen a little bolstering, and the upgrades have kicked its capabilities up a notch. You may have even encountered RealSense Id in one of its previous lives as it has been floating around for several years with multiple applications. If you ever chose to insert your face into Fallout 4 or used the Windows Hello feature to keep your laptop secure then you will have been using the tech. Besides the regular application, RealSense can be also used in ATMs, smart locks, registers, as well as by governments and law enforcement agencies tracking and profiling people.

There is undoubtedly a place for facial recognition software in our modern, fast-paced world. The Uighur, a persecuted minority in China, successfully tracked Huawei recognition software. In 2020 facial recognition in the US was  used by the New York City Police Department to track a Black Lives Matter activist accused of assault. The potential application possibilities are endless but Intel says for the time being the logistics of getting the tech installed in something like a bank ATM or cash register is unknown. Currently, their tech processes facial recognition on-device and isn’t ready for such a large venture. 

Aside from the glaringly obvious potential for abuse the tech has other issues. In relatively early stages there has been a lot of bias found. Race, as well as gender, has been an issue, and many cases of misidentification still crop up especially for minorities. These false positives show the tech still has a long way to go. As an example; Rekognition (an Amazon facial recognition software) functions well with white males but struggles with female faces as well as anyone with darker skin. 

Intel’s solution to addressing the problems is to collect more faces and expand upon the diversity in the systems data samples. “We’ve done extensive data collection of all ethnicities from Asia, Europe, Middle East Africa,” Intel told VentureBeat at a press briefing for the new device. As to Intel, the chances of RealSense ID falsely identifying someone are very low. Yet, we can only wait and see if the outside researches find flaws.

As we said, RealSense has other potential applications and at this year’s CES event Intel had plenty to share. Announcing their Touchless Control Software (TCS), which builds on their older remote monitor tech. It will allow you to use touchscreens without contact. Using their Depth Camera you can interact by hovering your finger. With the pandemic of 2020 still looming over us, contactless tech like this surely has its place in our futures.

You can order your RealSense ID peripheral from Intel for $99 now and get the RealSense ID Module pack of 10 for $750. The shipping for both will start in March.

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