10 Amazing Uses of Facial Recognition Technology

There are a number of ways businesses, government agencies and even churches are employing facial recognition technology. Despite privacy concerns, it's hard to argue against the good things that the tech can be used for.

Identifying missing children, helping the blind, catching shoplifters, tracking churchgoers -- these are only a number of ways facial recognition is being used today.

Check out these 10 amazing uses of facial recognition technology.

To protect your privacy

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Snapchat is seeking new ways to protect people’s privacy in images. In a recently filed patent, the company discusses using an advanced facial recognition technology to scan photos and decide whether to refuse sharing the image or automatically cover the faces of some individuals in the image with emojis to ensure their privacy.

People would be able to save certain privacy settings on their Snapchat accounts that decides how photos of them can be shared.

To unlock your phone

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Apple has been investigating the use of facial recognition technology for unlocking iPhones. Taking a selfie with your iPhone that matches up to a previously taken photo would allow you to unlock your phone without any passwords.

Android is also chartering similar territory with an application called Smart Lock that recognizes users' faces to unlock devices.

To tag your pictures

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Facebook has been way ahead of its time in terms of facial recognition technology. Since 2011, the social media leader has used facial recognition to speed up the process of tagging people in photos.

When a user uploads an image to Facebook, the site's algorithms recognizes the faces of friends and asks users if they would like to tag them. It’s typically pretty accurate.

To make online payments

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We all know what a hassle online payments can be -- creating an account, adding your shipping and billing addresses, putting in your credit card. Not to mention how nerve-wracking it can often be to give up such personal information to a website.

Ecommerce giant Alibaba wants to change that. Alibaba and its affiliate payment service AliPay aim to use facial recognition software for online payments. With this new technology, you would simply scan your face with your smartphone camera to place your order.

Mastercard has also has plans to launch a similar facial recognition payment method called “ Selfie Pay.”

To advertise

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If targeted ads weren’t enough, Tesco plans to take things to the next level. The company is looking to install screens in petrol stations that will scan customers’ faces to determine their gender and age so it can run tailored ads.

The company plans to install OptimEyes screens in 450 of its U.K. stores.

To find lost pets and missing people

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Companies are using facial recognition technology to save the world, one lost person or pet at a time.

Finding Rover is an app that lets owners and shelters post pictures of lost pets in hopes of reuniting them with their owners. Using facial recognition software, the app matches photos and alerts owners when their pets are found.

Similarly, Helping Faceless is an app created to help find missing and kidnapped children and reunite them with their families. Just as Finding Rover scans an image and finds a match, Helping Faceless essentially does the same for people. Users can input the date and location the person went missing to narrow search results.

To help the blind

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Mouthwash brand Listerine created a mobile app that helps people with blindness “see” smiles. The app detects when they are being smiled at by someone around them, then beeps or vibrates their devices to notify them.

The new app was launched in Europe, along with a touching documentary, Feel Every Smile, featuring four blind people who discuss how not knowing if someone is smiling affects them. Their reactions are moving and the new technology has been well reviewed.

To track congregates

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Churches around the world have started to use facial recognition technology Churchix to track who of their community is regularly attending services.

Using cameras that scan attendees faces as they walk into the building, the technology uploads and matches the images in a large database for the specific church community. Churches want to find out why people may not be attending, or ask for large donations from those who are.

To document your vacation

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On some Disney cruise ships, photographers roam the ships for the duration of the vacation taking photos of travelers. The photos are sorted using facial recognition software that pairs the images to the specific people in the photographs.

Later, passengers can scan their Disney ID (which they receive before the trip) at a kiosk and all of their pictures are pulled up -- without any time being spent searching for yourself in the images.

To catch criminals

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Wal-Mart has tested facial recognition software FaceFirst as a way to prevent theft.

The technology scans the face of anyone who enters a store and identifies any suspicious people and potential shoplifters -- instantly alerting store security on their phones. The trial lasted a few months at a number of Wal-Mart stores in the U.S.

A number of other stores, such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, are incorporating this technology into their security systems as well.

Local police forces around the country are also employing facial recognition technology as an additional tool to catch criminals.