As a neurosurgeon, the complexity and intricacies of the human brain fascinate me, Recently, I stumbled upon an article published on SmithsonianMag.com that examined how the brain identifies human faces instantly.
For example, think about the last time you scrolled down your Facebook or Instagram feed. Odds are you can identify the people in the photos before you even see whose names are tagged in the photo. Our brain has this fascinating inherent ability to identify faces, even though we struggle to remember other characteristics about the individual, like their job or even their name.
How our brains do this so quickly isn’t exactly clear, but researchers are learning more about the mechanics of what’s going on inside our brains when we’re exposed to faces. According to researchers, there are six areas in our brain’s temporal lobe that contain and activate specific neurons when we’re looking at a face compared to another object, like a ball.
Essentially, these neurons are activated based on the specific structures we see in the face, and the recognition and association of that face to a particular individual are based on the specific neural activity. Our brain doesn’t see the face as a whole, rather it sees things like wide-set eyes, an elongated nose, high cheek bones, lip structure and countless other facial minutia and uses these features to create an inherent association and recognition.
iPhone 8 Facial Recognition
Interestingly, Apple is trying to mimic this complex brain function and translate it to their newest product, the iPhone 8. According to reports, the new iPhone will have facial recognition software that can recognize faces within “millionths of a second,” or essentially at the same speed as our brain.
The facial cognition software used in the new iPhone will use the same process as our brains use. The software doesn’t recognize the face as a whole – it measures hundreds of different aspects of each face. By assigning mathematical values to every measured characteristic on a face, the software can come up with identifying marks that are as unique to the individual as a fingerprint. The mathematical algorithm used to recognize faces in the new iPhone mimics the neural processes in our brains. Crazy!
It will be interesting to see how effective the facial recognition software is, but my guess is that it will be creepily efficient. We’ve already seen similar technology being rolled out on Facebook with their auto photo tagging capabilities, and Apple is always a technological pioneer, so I expect it to go above and beyond what we already know about facial recognition. It’s great to see neuroscience being applied to the latest technologies, because if it is successful, it should lead to more research into the brain and more understanding of our bodies most complex organ.