Bambang F. Indarto

The Journey… The Shares

My Lenovo Veriface… Cool

Posted by bfindarto on December 1, 2008

Silently, Lenovo (formerly IBM’s Personal Computer Division) has introduced a revolutionary new feature on many of their notebook computers called Veriface!  Veriface is face recognition software, which is actually a reemergence of an old idea. IBM had facial recognition capabilities a long time ago. The first introduction was with a ThinkPad T23 with an external camera mounted on the system’s UltraPort. It didn’t work well at all. Most likely because the cameras of that era were terrible. I think they were 0.3 megapixels, but may not have even been that much.

Now that many Lenovo systems include integrated cameras with much better quality (1.3MP), facial recognition has become viable and available for day to day use in securing these computers. The included software lets you log onto your Windows account simply by sitting in front of your system. Your face is your password. What is much cooler is that it is very user friendly for multiple user accounts. For example, let’s say you have three Windows accounts – Mom, Dad, and Sis. If you have associated their faces with their respective user accounts, the system determines which person is in front of the computer when Windows boots and automatically logs them onto the right account. In practice this works very well and is extremely fast at recognition. We have been able to test this with several of our own staff, and each time all they had to do was sit in front of the computer and the system took care of the rest.

Depending on the software used, face recognition uses multiple techniques to identify a person’s face. Some of the more advanced programs use texture mapping in which a person’s skin texture is analyzed and matched. Most however, define nodal points on a person’s face and then use software to mathematically represent those points. Things measured include distance between the eyes, width of the nose, length of the jaw line, or shape of the cheekbones. Together these concatenate a numerical code which is stored in a database for later retrieval.

One particular aspect of the software Lenovo uses is rather freaky. When you sit down in front of the camera, the system generates two white dots that follow your eyes. Of course, this is completely harmless and is nothing more than a few white pixels shown on screen. However, when you see this, you’ll immediately think that there are two lasers drilling holes into my corneas.  Just relax, it’s just the software way of identifying your eyes, and tracking them to map your face.

Of course, a feature like face recognition invites play, and what better way to play than to try and fool the software.

One of Lenovo’s own staff members demonstrated a number of techniques to try to fool it!  First up was an 8 x 10 color glossy photograph of his face (with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back). No matter how I held the photograph, no matter whether the security settings were set high or at their lowest setting, no matter what angle he held the photo, he was not able to use it to log onto the system. The result was exactly what I had expected – that the software was smart enough to distinguish a face from a picture of a face.

The next experiment was to see if the system recognized all types of faces. Sitting at home, I attempted to register my cat. The software wouldn’t enroll her. The software refused to accept the cat, but will register your face if you are holding your pet. On all of these, the software wouldn’t enroll the animals. So it seems that only human faces are recognized and accepted by the software.

Overall it was fast, accurate, and easy to use. There is a password management feature where you can use your face to act as your password – much like on typical fingerprint reader models. Clearly Veriface is easy to use, and a very viable solution.

Source: IBM – Lenovo

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