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7 awesome (and awful) applications of facial recognition tech

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Face Race

Face it – your privacy is kaput. And the latest contributor to the end of anonymity? Facial recognition software. Once the stuff of sci-fi, facial recognition tech is showing up everywhere from American churches to Kenyan savannahs. Here are some of the strangest, coolest, and most concerning applications of facial recognition technology today.

Pay Up

Passwords can be forgotten – or worse, stolen. Your face, not so much. That’s why MasterCard is experimenting with approving online purchases via facial scan. Through the MasterCard app, mobile users will be able to authorize payments by posing for a selfie, and blinking once – that’s to ensure a thief cannot simply hold a picture of you in front of the camera. China, meanwhile, seems to be a step ahead: an ATM that utilizes facial recognition debuted in May.

On The Tail

Furry faces are ripe for recognition as well – a mobile app called Finding Rover promises to help owners locate lost pups. Users upload pictures of their missing pets, and wait to see if someone finds little Lucky and posts her picture as “found”. The app uses facial recognition tech to identify matches; to date, the Finding Rover team lays claim to more than 600 reunions. And mourners of Cecil the Lion can find some solace here: a Kenya-based group called Lion Guardians has begun using facial recognition to track individual lions.

Say Your Prayers

Skip last Sunday’s service? It’s not just God who noticed. Churchix uses facial recognition tech to help churches track attendance. Churches can then use this data, founder Moshe Greenshpan says, to check in on straying patrons and ask particularly loyal attendees for donation. Don’t expect to get away with unseemly behavior at music festivals, either – the UK’s Download Festival used facial recognition software to identify hooligans on festival grounds in June.

Private Eyes

Don’t want to be recognized? Wear these glasses. Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics have developed a “privacy visor” that absorbs and reflects light to that extent that facial recognition software cannot focus on facial features. Of course, you could always wear a mask.

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