About Face


Friday, October 07, 2011

There are thousands of closed–circuit surveillance cameras in New York City. One of them belongs to the artist Wafaa Bilal

Last year, Bilal had a tiny camera surgically embedded in the back of his head. And since then, his camera has automatically snapped pictures of whatever is behind him — once per minute. The photos are streaming on his website. “By having the camera very visible, implanted in my head,” Bilal explains, “this project is really raising awareness about surveillance.”

Meanwhile, the government (in particular, the US Military) is investing heavily in the development of facial recognition software.

Peter Belhumeur is a professor of computer science at Columbia University. He's at the forefront of developing computer systems that can recognize faces. Kurt Andersen visits him in his lab, where Belhumeur explains why the gold standard of facial recognition is still a long way off.

“There’s pose: the way the face presents itself to the camera. There’s illumination: how the face is lit. … Because the face isn’t a rigid object, it changes its shape.” And that’s not counting subjects who are unwilling to have their picture taken — a face “in the wild.”

(Originally aired: December 17, 2010) 


Bonus Track: Name That Plant

Peter Belhumeur collaborated with the Smithsonian on an iPhone app for plant identification, based on the same systems he’s developed for facial recognition. He explains to Kurt how the app works.


Wafaa Bilal

Produced by:

Michele Siegel

Comments [1]

Christian in the corn belt from Des Moines

Isn't this a violation of....I mean like privacy?

Taking photographs without the permission of the person, and without what professional photographers use. I think it's called a "release."

I mean those people have two eyes! They smile. They weren't asked. Isn't Mr. Bilal a "peeping Tom?" This is obscene.

Stop this violation of privacy. Vote Republican. Bring back the McCarthy era.

Oct. 13 2011 12:30 AM

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