Computer vision, as this area of research is known, has many potential applications.
“One of the most likely uses is in online shops where you buy glasses, so that you can try them on,” Jackson said. “There are also possible medical applications; perhaps you could simulate the results of plastic surgery.”
“Some other applications might be in facial expression analysis, measuring emotional arousing, for example, often used in psychological studies,” he added.
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There’s clearly potential for computer games and augmented reality, too. You could potentially use it to render an accurate three-dimensional avatar of yourself in an online virtual reality game with friends, or use the technology to make human simulator games like The Sims more realistic.
Others have pointed out the potential for nefarious uses. Apple is replacing its TouchID fingerprint scanner with a 3D facial scan that can unlock your phone by identifying the owner’s face. Might a 3D rendering of somebody’s face be capable of fooling that software?
It wouldn’t be the first time that high-tech smartphone security features have failed: when Samsung’s Galaxy S8 smartphone launched with iris scanning, the sensor could be tricked with a color photo of the user’s eyes and the addition of a contact lens to make it appear real.
Jackson thinks it unlikely that the new tool can hack the latest iPhone.
“There is very little chance of it working on iPhones given that, apparently, Apple tested it on very high quality 3D models,” he said.
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Jackson did concede that the technology could be used to improve surveillance techniques, given that recent research showed that facial recognition can be improved by having a 3D model instead of a single image.
Research into a deep learning facial recognition method that will be able to identify people even when they are wearing masks caused something of a furor recently. Zeynep Tufekci, a prominent academic who writes about tech and society, posted about its potential boon to authoritarian ends.
“The trend is clear,” she wrote. “Ever increasing new capability that will serve authoritarians well.”
“I suppose it could be used for things like that,” Jackson acknowledged. “But I wouldn’t like to think that it would be.”
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