A statement from the university says eventually the software will be able to tell who the user is, where they are looking and even how they are feeling.
The method is believed to be unrivalled for speed and accuracy and could lead to facial recognition replacing passwords and PIN numbers to log into internet sites from a mobile phone.
The new software was built on 20 years of research at the University, and has been demonstrated on a Nokia N900 for the EU-funded “Mobile Biometrics” (MoBio) project.
Face verification is already used in laptops, webcams and the Xbox 360 Kinect but this is the first time the technology is being used with such sophistication in mobile devices such as smartphones.
The statement quoted the lead researcher of the project, Dr. Phil Tresadern as saying “existing mobile face trackers give only an approximate position and scale of the face – but our model runs in real-time and accurately tracks a number of landmarks on and around the face such as the eyes, nose, mouth, and jaw line.”
He said the mobile phone with a camera on the front captures a video of the user’s face and tracks twenty-two facial features, adding that this could make face recognition more accurate, and had great potential for novel ways of interacting with one’s phone.
The software was originally intended as part of a face and voice-verification system for access to mobile internet applications such as email, social networking and online banking.
But its alternative uses could include fun applications that, for instance, attach virtual objects to the user’s face as they move around.
“At this stage, we’re particularly interested in demonstrating uses for the face-tracking part of the technology, which is the area The University of Manchester is involved in,” said Dr Tresadern. “It is very fast and I can’t find anything that can rival it on a mobile phone.”
By Samuel Dowuona