IsItYou Promises To Make Face Authentication Actually Work

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Facial recognition as a form of authentication, like many of the technologies that have bubbled into reality in the past few years, is something that Sci-Fi has been promising for decades. Alas, it’s… not always very good. Android’s face-based unlock mode, for example, tends to be fun for a few minutes before it just gets frustrating.

IsItYou, a company debuting at Disrupt SF 2014 today, claims to do it much, much better.

Presenting on stage today, company co-founder Benjamin Levy claimed that their algorithms have at least two advantages over Google and the rest: it works in extreme lighting conditions (like a dark room, where the only light is from your screen), and its anti-spoofing tools make tricking the algorithm tough.

I spoke to Levy, who explained why better facial recognition is so crucial. “On most of the phones out there today, the facial recognition fails 2 or 3 times out of ten. With our solution, the false-negative rate is closer to 2 or 3 out of 10,000”

False negatives are one thing — but what about false positives?

Android’s facial recognition got some bad marks early on when someone managed to trick it using nothing but a printed still photo. Google later fixed this by requiring the user to blink on command — but that solution feels like training the user, rather than training the phone.

IsItYou analyzes not just your face, but how it expects the lighting on your face to behave in different situations. Light bouncing off of a flat surface (like a printed photo, or a tablet screen) behaves much differently than light bouncing off your face. They demonstrated their algorithm rejecting a printed photo of Levy’s face — then, taking it one step further, had someone don a 3d printed mask of Levy’s face. It, too, was rejected.

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As for the business model: IsItYou intends to be a solution for others to plugin to their apps, whether it’s your bank or your favorite social network. They’d charge per authentication.

The company plans to launch into private beta in Q4. You can find more info here.

Judge’s QA:

What if you’re under duress? What if someone has a gun to your head?

They’ll be able to get in. Even in this massive market, we think that situation is quite rare.

How is it better than fingerprint recognition?

Your face is already in the public arena. Do you want your fingerprint in the cloud somewhere?

What clients do you have on board?

We’re launching next quarter [so it’s too early for that.]

Will you win because of your technology — the anti-spoofing, etc — or because of your business model?

Technology only gets you so far. We need to get this in as many applications as we can.

Can this be used for things like Dropcam, or with other Internet Of Things devices?

We haven’t done that yet, but with the way we built this technology, yes.