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Stirling researchers probe science of recognition

Facial recognition Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The scientists want to understand how humans recognise faces

Psychologists from the University of Stirling are to play a central role in a £6m study to develop next generation face-recognition technology.

The five-year project will bring university research teams from across the UK together with the Home Office and industry specialists.

They will examine how face recognition can improve global security and commerce.

Scientists from Stirling will offer expertise on face perception.

Prof Peter Hancock, from the university's psychology department, will lead the Stirling team as they investigate how humans recognise familiar faces.

The professor previously helped to develop EvoFIT - a facial recognition system which is used by police forces around the world.

Privacy implications

Prof Hancock said: "Humans are surprisingly poor at identifying faces they don't know, even professionals such as passport controllers have difficulty matching people to their photographs.

"But we are much better than machines at recognising familiar faces and the challenge we are undertaking is to gain an understanding of what the process is that allows us to do this."

The project will also look at the privacy implications of the technology.

Global security is the "prime driver" for the the study, but it is hoped there will be commercial benefits as well.

Prof Hancock added: "In the future it could be your bank will recognise you automatically at the cash machine and remove the need for Pin numbers.

"The BBC are also interested in how it might make accessing their vast archive more efficient."

The project begins in January.

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