Google physically collecting face data for future facial recognition tech: Report

“The reports claim that Google is going around in various cities, and is using a disguised phone and urging users to capture various angles of their face.”

Google is reportedly going around collecting face data from whichever participant that is willing to contribute, according to reports. The move appears to be a bit strange since reports state that Google actually has employees who have been spread across multiple cities, going around holding a heavily disguised smartphone, with which they are asking individuals to shoot selfies of multiple angles of their face.

This has sparked speculations that Google is building its next-generation facial recognition sensor with an aim to launch it with this year’s Google Pixel 4 line of smartphones. While the Pixel phones have retained the good old physical fingerprint sensor ever since launch, its prime competitor, the Apple iPhone, switched over to an advanced facial recognition system called Face ID, which uses 3D structured light and an infrared sensor to “see” faces, and create texture maps of them.

Google Pixel 4

Reports suggest that Google will be doing away with the fingerprint sensor on the Pixel 4, so facial recognition would be a reasonable way forward. However, Google might be going for a slightly different approach than Apple, using a 3D Time of Flight (ToF) sensor on the front sensor array in order to gauge depth and space. While ToF sensors are not quite as high resolution and accurate as structured light mechanisms, they are much more commercially viable, given their lower cost. Google reportedly aims to use this with a robust neural network algorithm, which will be trained using millions of faces, facial styles, angles, textures and postures, which in turn will help to recognise a face spontaneously.

Given that Google is often said to have a vast trove of data with them already, it is a bit strange to have Google’s employees roam about on the streets using what is presumably a pre-production stage Google Pixel 4 smartphone, asking people to photograph their own faces. Google is said to be offering a $5 gift card from Starbucks or Amazon as a token for providing the faces, along with a data waiver form that the participants are expected to sign before taking the photographs. We can’t help wonder if this is an effect of all the privacy battles that the company is already embroiled in, for which they’ve had to take an alternate route to collect data.