Facial recognition technology in education

With facial recognition technology, we can register a student’s class engagement levels in real-time

Artificial Intelligence is a hot topic these days, and what was once science fiction is now very much a scientific fact. Facial recognition technology has long since been considered controversial. On the one hand, it offers unequivocal advantages in identity verification, whilst on the other, it’s considered by many as another step down the slippery slope towards privacy invasion. Of course, government and law enforcement tell us it’s for our safety and security, but as we all know, there’s a very blurry line between our right to privacy and their right to surveillance.

But what if one could use this technology for good by optimizing educational experiences and taking them to a completely new level? Is it even possible? How would it work? These are all valid questions currently occupying the same can of worms I’ll attempt to crack open in this article.

According to a report* from March 2020, the global market for facial recognition is expected to reach $9.93bn by 2027.

Incredibly, facial recognition has been around since the 1960s, but thanks to advances in camera technology and artificial intelligence, accuracy and massive data processing power are now enabling facial recognition tech to meets its full potential. So much so that, according to various reports, the global market is expected to reach between $9.93bn and $12.92bn by 2027.

While implementation costs are still high, advances such as 3D recognition systems and cloud-based solutions continue to drive adoption across various verticals, including retail, transportation, and banking (to name but a few).

How does facial recognition work?

Just like the fingerprint, iris, and finger vein pattern technologies, facial recognition is a biometric tool that identifies someone based on the physiology of their face. Once captured, the tech scans the face’s features (also known as ‘landmarks or ‘nodal points’). Essentially, it maps the face, and from there, will translate this data into a mathematical formula, thus resulting in a unique facial signature for the recipient. Biometrics: 101.

Emotion recognition

One exciting element of facial recognition’s evolution is detecting emotions through a person’s facial expressions. There’s no doubt about it: marketers, broadcasters, and brands across the globe are frothing at the mouth over emotion recognition technology. It’s no wonder since, by way of a laptop, smartphone, or smart TV camera, this type of software can register the neutrality, happiness, level of surprise, interest, anger, disgust, fear, or even sadness of the user’s captured face. Imagine how Netflix could utilize this technology to deploy alternative programming rapidly.

I’d be lying if I said this didn’t concern me. Of course, it does. I’m a human who takes privacy rights seriously, after all. However, on the flip side, is a huge opportunity to use this technology to better society.

Evolving education technology

My mum was a teacher. A damn good one, too, by all accounts — so much so that some of her students (aged 5 when she taught them) attended her funeral (some forty years later). I mention this because I truly believe that some teachers are brilliant. Not for one second am I suggesting that technology should fully supplant the irreplaceable energy of an impassioned and fully engaged educator.

It’s a funny thing, but when I consider how the fintech and martech industries have adopted best-in-class technologies in engagement and personalization — offering the most commercially sublime solutions to brands and consumers, I can’t help but wonder why the education space drags along so abysmally in comparison.

As highlighted, the technology already exists to read your face’s emotional response to something, so what if, instead of trying to sell to you or convince you to borrow or spend money, this software became part of a digital learning experience? Imagine if you could flip the traditional, linear (and ancient) classroom setting where one teacher attempts to deal with a marauding class of individuals — multiple personalities all squashed into a one-size-fits-all lesson program. How might this look?

Well, it’s pretty simple. Instead of having a digital version of a linear class program, by integrating AI, smart-chat, and pre-recorded responsive content with facial (emotional) recognition software, you could completely innovate the way a person learned. Suddenly, the ‘teacher’ (a technology platform) could serve a modular, intuitive class to the student, bobbing & weaving in response to the student’s mood and engagement level on any given day. As the platform learns more about the student, the AI machine learning capabilities can then constantly strive to optimize the student’s learning experience, making each lesson more effective whilst also providing precious (and actionable) data to the technology platform (and its human educators), enabling an ongoing process of engagement optimization.

In this model, students will receive a highly personalized learning experience, where they get to learn their way.

I’m no tech-buff, but even I get excited about this idea — especially when I think of my (pre-internet) school days…

Data privacy for the people

In a recent study* using 34,586 controlled experiments, researchers found that 72/81 devices have at least one destination, not a first-party (i.e., belonging to the device manufacturer). Simply put: your data (my data) is being sold to another third party. Surprised? Me neither. That said, I think it really is about time that we, the people took more control of our data.

With this in mind, the only way you’ll get me on board with the kind of tech I’ve been talking about is if you absolutely promise me — without a shadow of a doubt — that you’ll never share or sell my facial emotion recognition data with another commercial entity or government organization. If you can do that, then I’m into this idea of evolving education with technology, and I’ll even smile for the camera.

The good news is that Studyum wants to be one such learning technology platform. Combining AI, smart-chat, facial recognition, and engagement measurement tech is the sweet spot in our plans to revolutionize the way people learn and train. If we can measure a student’s attention and comprehension levels during a class, then we can change that class to better suit the way they learn. This, compared to a linear (ancient) classroom format? Well, to me, this feels like progress. It feels like using technology for the betterment of society. And that’s alright with me.

Written by Martin O'Toole

Sources

Facial Recognition Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report, by Researchandmarkets.com.

Forbes article discussing consumer device data tracking.

Consumer Report article about smart TV snooping features.

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