Facial-recognition system can guess your age

An experimental facial-recognition system developed by NEC is set to offer advertisers information on the age and gender of those viewing their ads in public spaces.

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An experimental facial-recognition system developed by NEC is set to offer advertisers information on the age and gender of those viewing their ads in public spaces.

Media buyers want the data to check whether their advertisements are hitting the right demographic.

The NEC Next Generation Digital Signage Solution, on display on the exhibit floor at the Gartner Symposium ITExpo this week, is a facial-recognition system with a camera that watches individuals, zeroing in on their faces to instantly determine age and gender.

It doesn't store the image of a person, but does gather age and gender data. The goal, says Takeshi Yamamoto, vice president of strategic alliances in the NEC IT Solutions Group, is to be able to give advertisers in public venues, such as airports or shopping places, what they really crave to know.

"Companies running digital ads have no idea of what people are around it, you'd have to have someone there physically counting them today," Yamamoto says.

The NEC facial-recognition system focuses in on passers-by, guessing age and gender with surprising accuracy. Age might be expressed as falling within a 10-year range, for example (and in the case of this reporter, it was accurate, though it missed the mark by a couple of years of another passer-by checking it out).

According to an NEC engineer, the longer you stay in front of the camera, the more accurate it gets, and you can see the data about you floating above the image of your head like a virtual halo.

Yamamoto says the age/gender data about those viewing advertising could be stored and retrieved later or sent electronically, adding the NEC facial-recognition is being tested in Japan by Fuji TV.

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