Cameras with face detection

Today I read three interesting articles in Popular Science. The first is about new cameras with face detection. The second, setting up your own cell phone tower for your home. And finally, making predictions profitable is the most accurate way to forecast the future. These are all interesting topics to me because they’re ideas I’ve had or seen before, but I didn’t know things have come so far.

Camera with face detection.

Cell phone tower for your own home.

Predicting the future by making it profitable.

Mug Shots: New cameras can spot a face in a crowd– and focus on it.

The goal of autofocus is to make something in the picture come out sharp. But if you’re taking a photo of people, it’s not their hands you want in focus. Recently, camera makers have been adding the ability to detect faces in a scene, track them if they move, and optimize both focus and exposure to make everyone look their best.

How it Works: All face-detecting cameras compare the scene before them to a built-in library of features derived from images of real people, such as the distances between eyes, patterns of light and shadow, and skin colors. So far, no models can identify a face in profile, and they don’t function well in low light, such as bars or candlelit rooms. But they’re not easily fooled: In our tests, none were thrown off by variations in skin tone or by accessories like eyeglasses.

It’s only a matter of time before this is taken to its logical next step: using this kind of tracking information for organization. I won’t say anything else about that here, but from personal experience I know that I can’t be trusted to organize my photos. Look no further than my installation of Picasa to see an example of a large collection of photographs in total disarray. There’s just no way to find anything there, much less faces. I wonder how this ties in with social networking, like Facebook– the whole point of a “facebook” is people’s faces, right? The more work my computer can do for me, the better.

It’s About Time: More Bars At Home. Stop garbled calls. Install your own personal cellphone tower

Cure spotty mobile-phone coverage by bringing the network to you … UbiCell taps into your carrier’s network through your broadband Internet line, and your mobile phone connects to it as it does any other cell tower … When you stray outside the UbiCell range, you’re automatically transferred to the standard cellular network.

This makes good sense from a technology and usability standpoint, as long as the politics, security, and legal issues are worked out. One of the top complaints we had about our previous carriers, such as Sprint– before we switched to Cingular– was terrible coverage right inside our own home. I get much better service in this particular location with 802.11b because we run our own wireless router. We use cordless phones because we have our own base station setup. Why not integrate everything and make our phones work wirelessly inside our homes? And when we leave, being able to seamlessly transfer to the big cell towers is a simply amazing technological achievement. I can hardly wait to see where this goes in the future.

The predictions stuff is self-explanatory. It was just amazing to see this catch on so quickly. Is it a fad, or will everyone start doing it? PopSci created their own exchange– the PPX (which is planning to go live June 11)– “where people come to buy and sell the future.” Other companies are doing this, too. And there are other markets that have been running for some time, and not just Sports ones.

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