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Analyzing (All of) Star Trek With Face Recognition 140

An anonymous reader writes "Accurate face recognition is coming. Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition, a face recognition start-up spun out from Carnegie Mellon University, has posted a tech demo showing an analysis of the entire original Star Trek series using face recognition. The online visualization includes various annotated clips of the series with clickable thumbnails of each character's appearance. They also have a separate page showing the full data of all the prominent characters in every episode including extracting thumbnails of each appearance." Their software can recognize frontal or near-frontal face instances.
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Analyzing (All of) Star Trek With Face Recognition

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  • anyone (Score:5, Funny)

    by ionix5891 ( 1228718 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:11PM (#27717591)

    know the name of that red shirted guy?

  • What a wellspring of Trek trivia! For instance, in Spock's Brain, Spock gets less than 4 and a half minutes of screen time. Fascinating...

    Shatner's a camera hog...

  • Why is this in YRO? It's just plan cool.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Probably because most of the world's CCTV cameras are feeding us rather than old Star Trek episodes back to Orwell HQ...
      • Yeah but you can't expect privacy outside of your own home, that's why its they're called public spaces not private ones.

        • Re:YRO? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by William Baric ( 256345 ) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @12:30AM (#27718613)

          Could you post the journal of all the things you did in public places today? I'm interest to know. Begin by telling me all the address of all the houses and buildings you entered. I mean... you can't expect privacy as soon as you leave your door, right? So I'm sure you won't mind if I know, right?

          BTW, Slashdot is certainly a public place and so hiding behind a nickname should not be expected. Could you give us your real name please?

          • you can't expect privacy as soon as you leave your door, right? So I'm sure you won't mind if I know, right?

            You can try wearing a ski mask.

            In fact, all this "privacy in public places" argument is kind of weird. The effect of these technologies is to bring the global village [] to a practical reality. You don't have too much privacy if you live in a small village. Everybody knows you were at Sally's house last night.

            Slashdot is certainly a public place and so hiding behind a nickname should not be expected. Cou

            • Except it won't be a global village kind of thing because only the elite will know what the rest of us is doing. The day I can completely monitor politicians, the police and other government institutions, that day I may accept everyone being watched. But let's be realistic, people in power will never accept being watched.

              As for a nickname being like clothes, even if I see a person wearing clothes, I'll still be able to know who he is (and if he wears a ski mask during a hot day, you can be sure I will becom

  • by Walt Dismal ( 534799 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:24PM (#27717673)
    We forehead-challenged beings demand you stop your software discrimination!
    • Dude, you're obviously not a real Klingon. You would have just chopped off their heads with your bat'leth.

    • pfft, you didn't receive your wacky foreheads yet. This is TOS, remember???
      • by dr_dank ( 472072 )

        pfft, you didn't receive your wacky foreheads yet. This is TOS, remember???

        We do not discuss it with outsiders.

    • There's no forehead issue here. They analyzed the original series where Klingons looked like Kossacks (sans horses).

    • Would you say this software violates your "human rights"? Or would you say that even suggesting the term is racist, and that the Federation is basically a "homo sapiens" only club?

  • by whois ( 27479 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:28PM (#27717699) Homepage

    About a year or two ago

    What I wanted was for face recognition software to become more general so you could search for movies using vague memories from your childhood:

    "Girl on boat", "Wheat field", "Yellow flag"

    With an advanced enough search engine, you could tag everything automatically.

    I didn't think of privacy concerns though, I guess thats a good point.

  • Machine recognition (facial or otherwise) is a lot easier in the lab setting, where you have a small pool of objects to recognize and a lot of data on each object. In typical non-lab settings, you have a large pool of objects to recognize and a small amount of data on each object, and your recognition rates (fp and fn) go south pretty quickly.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      I think you mean TP and TN (true positive and true negative). FP and FN (false positive and false negative) are your MISrecognition rates. You want them to go south.

      All of Star Trek is a much better test than the usual two or three grad students who were unlucky enough to come into the lab that day test.

      • Thanks, I did mean TP/TN although they can of course be obtained from FP/FN and vice versa.

        A better test would be to see if the program recognizes Captain Kirk in Boston Legal or T.J. Hooker, assuming that the features it looks for are somewhat age invariant.

  • I would hope so, but how is this not using someone else's copyrighted crap for commercial gain?

    This is a fun demo of their product, and realistically can't affect Star Trek revenues in a negative way. However, I suspect that some Paramount copyright lawyer might be getting wood about now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Shikaku ( 1129753 )

      I am a female lawyer you insensitive clod!

    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      There is some chance they consulted with a real actual lawyer, or went so far as to contact Paramount directly.

    • > I would hope so, but how is this not using someone else's copyrighted crap for
      > commercial gain?

      That does not rule out fair use.

      • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

        I would hope so, but how is this not using someone else's copyrighted crap for commercial gain?

        That does not rule out fair use.

        And isn't it in the end result just a collection of facts, which cannot be copyrighted either by Paramount or the people who did the analysis? (That is, only their presentation of the facts can be copyrighted.)

        This is the same fair use of complete works as exercised by Turn It In.

  • Doesn't work well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by genner ( 694963 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:46PM (#27717803)
    If you let it play a few minutes you'll see it indenify Spock and then in the next scene he comes up as unknown even though he's facing the camera. The system seems to fail when he arches his eyebrows.
    • by Burdell ( 228580 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:06PM (#27717905)

      The system seems to fail when he arches his eyebrows.


      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Bones: "Please Spock don't say it's fascinating.

        Spock: "No doctor fascinating is a word that I use when I discover something unexpected. It is; however, interesting."

    • There is obviously room for improvement, it seams like they analyze each frame separately as sometimes nodding a head will remove the recognition even if the character stays in shot, some sort of object tracking software could be added to compensate for that, but what they have achieved is defiantly quite impressive.

    • by 4181 ( 551316 )

      ... you'll see it indenify Spock and then in the next scene he comes up as unknown even though he's facing the camera.

      Hair cut recognition would help here.

    • I suppose I should I be impressed that it cannot be fooled by beards, but I am instead frightened that the computer cannot tell the difference between real Spock and Evil Spock [].

  • and nothing of value was ... wait, they did what?...
  • Per-episode graph (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Geam ( 30459 )
    I am not sure how much I really trust that per-episode chart once I started looking at one of the sample episodes. At some points the face recognition will not pick up on main characters for apparently no reason. For example, in episode 53 at about 1:30 in the sample there is dialog between Spock, Kirk, and someone else. The camera angles are steady and consistent (other than people turning their head while talking) and sometimes the system does not recognize one of the characters after it did just a few se
  • Accurate face recogition is coming!!! Really? Imagine if a company that made photo software made it so that the software would recognize the faces in your photos and then would automatically find the same faces and let you assign a name to them. Then you could look at all the photos of that person without having to manually tag the photos! Just imagine if someone did that. I guess we'll have to wait for accurate face recognition to actually come. [/sarcasm]
  • Lotsa problems (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bgspence ( 155914 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:03PM (#27717881)

    Checkout [], Scotty shows up under Kirk twice, and thats with just one try.

    Or, [] actor 0117 has an odd match on my second peek.

    They might want to try shirt matching.

  • What it doesn't do (Score:3, Insightful)

    by actionbastard ( 1206160 ) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:10PM (#27717929)
    Is recognize the faces of actors in makeup that may change their facial features. It doesn't recognize Vina when she appears in the 'non-illusion' state, although to real people she is still easily recognizable as Vina. So they have a 'ways to go' with their capabilities.
  • There is nothing in principle bad about what is being demonstrated here. But let's be clear, this isn't a new step forward, this quality of facial recognition has been around for years (just ask Vegas).

    The biggest limitation on facial recognition is and has always been the data processing cost. In terms of that the technology is obviously getting more and more viable as hardware progresses.

    Might we see this in a TV in the future? Maybe. But only when the cost of the hardware gets to a certain point and then

  • This is cool technology for my Tivo, but it also sounds like this technology could scan through the thousands of video feeds collected by municipal surveillance cameras and track my every movement. Not that my life is so interesting to anyone else, but what if it were?

  • So this software can recognise a face shown in a screenshot or video clip. So what?

    You could simply hold up a picture to the thing to fool it, or an iPhone with the first season of Star Trek playing it would seem.

    What a waste of time. The only facial recognition worth mentioning is the pattern projection method (gah, can't find link), which actually requires you have a 3D face for it work, but even then you can always trick it []
    • You could simply hold up a picture to the thing to fool it, or an iPhone with the first season of Star Trek playing it would seem

      That doesn't apply to all potential applications. What if we, say, used the facial recognition software to analyze mugshots of criminals who didn't cooperate with attempts to be identified, and cross-referenced the mugshots with digital databases of driver's license ID photos?

      They won't be able to hold up a picture to fool the recognition software when they are being monitored

  • I'd heard it said recently that things that computers can do in the realm of facial recognition, speech-recognition, and (a little more obviously) optical character recognition have come a damned long way, far further than most realize. That most people's experience with, say, speech-recognition is through some free-ware (crapware actually) and they don't know just how good the state of the art is. Which is: damned good.

    Speech-recognition is essentially a solved problem. OCR is easy, obviously, with all the

    • Re:AI... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Sunday April 26, 2009 @12:30AM (#27718615) Journal

      OCR is easy, obviously, with all the CAPTCHA news going around.


      OCRs typically boast 99% accuracy -- which sounds good until you realize that this means an error in every line or two of text.

      CAPTCHAs only need to be able to solve correctly a small percentage of the time to be effective -- even smaller, given humans can screw them up, too, and that problem is getting worse. So for example, Gmail couldn't just blacklist your IP for trying to register gmail accounts, without seeing quite a lot of abuse -- and botnets make IPs almost irrelevant anyway. But even 10% accuracy, which would result in absolutely unreadable OCR, would still mean that out of every 10 gmail accounts you attempt to sign up for, you get one fully functional account.

      Which is damned good, for a spammer.

      But, it's though that by about 2025 the number of transistors and speed of processors will be such as to rival the brain and after that point all bets are off. It will be an exciting 15 years in AI research.

      I'll place a bet: We don't currently understand the human brain very well. How do you suppose we'll be able to emulate it? And your guess of 15 years seems very optimistic...

      Put another way, if I gave you a brand-new, top-of-the-line computer -- for the sake of argument, let's say it's a fully loaded Mac Pro -- only with the hard drive completely formatted, could you make it do anything useful?

      I'll make it slightly more realistic. I'll give you what Linus Torvalds had: A copy of Minix and a C compiler. And of course, you've got more hardware than he does. Could you just write a modern OS?

      If you assume that the raw power will let us "evolve" an AI, I'm going to suggest that it takes much more hardware to evolve a program into being than it does to run it.

      But, if we imagine a conscious program we can imagine a being who can 'image' every moment of life (or of their brain), save it, and even rewind backwards, or stop and start states, easily. If you're an AI and you see something you don't want to remember, just rewind a bit and it's gone forever :P

      Yes, the last 15 years or more of science fiction -- cyberpunk, in particular -- make clear just how cool it would be for an AI to exist. That doesn't mean we're anywhere close.

      human intelligences uploaded into the machine

      Here's the uncomfortable truth: It may well be that we create AI, but no means to "upload" ourselves. Ever. The best we can do is create AI children.

      And they might not like us very much. See the other side of cyberpunk -- distopian futures with robotic overlords. (Terminator comes to mind.)

      • Hehe, I could answer a few of these questions, but they are the subject of the novel I'm currently writing :)
        The 2025 estimate isn't mine, it's Ray Kurzweil's, look him up, he's done a lot more research on it than either of us, including two books on the topic. The estimate is based on the number of neurons in the human brain and a projection of Moore's Law to discover how many transistors & ghz would be needed to approximate the processing power equivalent of the human brain. 2025 is actually the later

        • Lastly, brain imaging tools have come a very, very, long way. Did you see a recent article which announced the discovery of a way to increase the sensitivity of micro-MRI machines by over 1,000,000 times?

          None of which proves we can actually see what is needed to produce a consciousness. As a simple example: Cut off oxygen to the brain, and it dies. Do we know what would be required to bring it back to life?

          It's hip to be skeptical,

          Indeed. But with good reason.

          There's this whole "geek Rapture" thing going on, where people look at Moore's Law, and watch Terminator, and come up with this "singularity" concept. Which sounds really interesting, and theoretically possible, but when I've talked to people about this, what I generally hear

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Speech-recognition is essentially a solved problem. OCR is easy, obviously, with all the CAPTCHA news going around. Face recognition, sure, sure, this article proves it. So, what's next?

      All those HAVE come a long way, but that's a lot different than being solved problems. OCR is pretty good, but it's not as good as someone reading. Speech recognition is mostly usable, if you train it well and have a good microphone in a quiet room, but that's a long way from what your brain can do - virtually 100% recogni

  • Given the pittpatt founders come from CMU, I'm sure they are brilliant and will find more creative and interesting ways to turn pattern recog into $$. However, is this tech really new/cutting edge? Facial recog has been around for a while. Heck, I had to write similar software as projects in grad school. Sounds like pittpatt founders might have developed faster, more accurate/reliable algorithms (far better than I could do). However, is this really enough to support a new company? Maybe the interesting det
  • by carlzum ( 832868 ) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @01:54AM (#27718995)
    If you don't want to be recognized by facial recognition software, wear black and white greasepaint. In Episode 70 [] the actors playing Lokai and Bele are misidentified in a few scenes. The images are categorized by the black and white makeup rather than the actor. I'm not sure why Bele's face paint is reversed in some of the images. Did he look in a mirror or something, or did the video capture reverse it?
  • Since we are on the subject of Face Recolonization, when will some public use FR come into effect? I really like google's FR for online albums, but I have a hard drive with GIGS of pictures I would like to easily go through and find and name faces for me. I am hoping google or some company will release an offline FR software that we can use. Anybody know of any commercial software that does it?
  • I can't wait until they start adding this feature to all those CCTV's...
  • Its not perfect. Barbara Babcock was recognized as 2 different faces, 00058 and 00061 and in the episode naked time, Majel Barret was recognized as Chapel and a random character, the only difference was hair up or down. Nice to know that a haircut can confuse it. I hope they don't start using something like this for profiling. Its not ready.
  • Hmm... PittPatt claims they have an SDK [] that is usable by the public, but there is no download link. Does this seem suspicious to anyone else?
  • Click on the Spock faces at the top of Season Two (Amok Time, []) All Vulcan men look alike to this software.
  • When a character rotates his head, so the camera gets the side, the recognition gets lost. The person then shows up as unknown. It sounds so simple to link a face that changes from known to unkown (rotating head) to each other, solving the unknown. Example is episode 66 at 6:53 where mccoy = unknown, when kirk moves in front of him, afterwards mccoy is known. There is a bit of a gap, but some reasonably smart algorithm should not be so difficult to cook up.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments