The Goodwood Festival of Speed (FOS) is an annual motoring garden party held at Goodwood House in West Sussex, England, attended by over 200,000 people. The event began in 1993 and has been a notable showcase for emerging technologies combined with roaring engines and fancy cocktails. This year marks the festival’s silver jubilee and a host of special events are planned to celebrate. The event also provides an opportunity for those attending to see presentations of cutting edge technologies such as a robocar that will autonomously climb the FOS hill, a jet pack capable of achieving speeds of up to 200 mph and an altitude of 10,000 feet, and a robotic bartender doling out cocktails with its own signature martini shaking style.
Chiming in for the world of 3D is the Oxford/USA-based Fuel3D, a company whose energies are entirely devoted to pushing the boundaries of what is currently possible through 3D technologies. Operating in a variety of sectors, the wizardry that will be showcased by Fuel3D at the FOS’ Future Lab Exhibition is a 3D scanning facial recognition technology. The ability to accurately map and identify faces is a feature that has been making a splash with its inclusion on the Apple iPhone X. It’s certainly not a new idea, but it is one that has been oversold before. Fuel3D has acknowledged the problems associated with facial recognition technology and is hoping to surmount those issues to create heightened security procedures as well as increased personalization.
One of the party tricks that Fuel3D will perform is a Cinderella-esque whose face fu competition in which attendees are challenged to have their face scanned and whichever face most closely resembles the scanned face of one of Goodwood’s celebrity drivers will win a custom-made set of sunglasses. Through this, they hope to demonstrate that there is more than just security that will benefit from facial scanning capabilities. In a statement from Fuel 3D, CMO Karl Turley explained:
“Anyone, young or old, can enter the competition and find out how their face measures up as we’ll be looking to find the person with the closest matching proportions to our celebrity’s key facial landmarks. While we can’t promise you the co-ordination of a racing star, we can promise a perfectly fitting pair of glasses. We are all unique and in today’s increasingly competitive retail landscape our platform demonstrates the role technology can play in personalising the performance of products, redefining customer experience and helping to set brands apart.”
Depending on who you talk to, it’s possible to see facial recognition technology of this sort as either the next step in creating greater security, or the first step towards submitting to our robot overlords. The key is to recognize that the primary difference between humans and robots is that when people make a mistake they can admit it, whereas robots cannot. Anyone who has ever had something erroneously entered on their credit report knows this.
Fifteen years ago, a woman with my married name opened a bank account in Chicago, a city I lived in until the ripe old age of nine months, and wrote some bad checks. I still have to prove that she and I are not the same person. It involves me sending heaps of identifying documents every time I want to open a bank account or turn on gas service. While any human being could reasonably understand that wasn’t me, the computer is not only unable to do so, but unable to let go of the information without human intervention. Now, imagine your face has been recognized and that data is introduced into a court of law. We’ve seen the horrors that have occurred with a misunderstanding of DNA results and arson burn pattern readings, but we tend to hold such reverence for seeming objective applications of technology that it takes the grossest of errors (or a good Tom Cruise movie) to create the smallest of doubts.
The key here is the recognition (pun intended) by companies investing in this type of technology of the inherent risks and the need to approach the development of this kind of technology carefully. Fuel3D is taking these factors into consideration, recognizing some of the fundamental issues surrounding facial recognition, as CEO George Thaw said:
“Accuracy still remains a major concern for biometric data applications. According to data from the privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, the Metropolitan Police could be misidentifying innocent people as wanted criminals more than nine times out of 10.”
The reality of what will be done with this technology most likely lies somewhere between our highest hopes and the greatest fears, and Fuel3D wants to be right there, helping it to be the best it can be.
The company also moved into its new offices earlier this month, and has shared a 360° tour of its Oxford Science Park facility:
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