3D cameras ideal for facial biometrics and distance checks as world returns to work, Orbbec CEO says

Remote authentication keeps the world working: a Biometric Update interview series
3D cameras ideal for facial biometrics and distance checks as world returns to work, Orbbec CEO says

Biometrics are widely expected to continue playing a major role in people gradually resume public interaction after weeks or months of doing everything remotely. As lockdowns around the world are eased, facial recognition and other non-contact technologies will be used to secure access control, and related technologies will be used to detect masks, monitor crowd sizes, and even ensure people maintain physical distancing.

For some of these applications, 3D imaging is ideally suited, and facial recognition was one of the main markets Orbbec sold million of cameras to in the past year, the company’s Co-founder and CEO David Chen told Biometric Update in an interview.

The company has been developing 3D imaging technology for seven years. “We are now the largest independent 3D camera manufacturer worldwide,” Chen says, before qualifying the claim with a laugh that he is not counting Apple as “independent.”

“The change had already started to take place,” he observes. Tracing the development of 3D computer imaging back to its academic roots in 2011, through the first major advances of products based on 3D cameras starting in 2015, Chen says the technology has matured, while computer vision applications based on 2D imaging have become increasingly relied on in a range of industries.

The COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about physical distancing have come about just as the 3D camera market takes off. The 3D sensor market is expected to grow at a 22 percent CAGR to 2024, and the global facial recognition market was forecast to surpass $12 billion by 2025, with stationary 3D taking up the largest portion of the market, even before the pandemic struck.

“There is a pretty clear that people are starting to realize even more that non-contact technology and interactions will play a really important role in the near future,” Chen says. “The trend is already very clear, from academic right through applications.”

Chen says that the additional data provided by 3D cameras makes distance tracking much simpler, and algorithm and function development easier in general.

Orbbec cameras are used in non-contact recognition, tracking, and reconstruction, and the company is currently working on series of new products, including “short range, middle range, long range, wide angle, and higher accuracy 3D cameras,” according to Chen.

Orbbec recently partnered with Eyeware to provide retailers with eye tracking for customer insights. For the smartphone market, Orbbec is working with OneVisage on modules and solutions for OEMs.

“In the near future I think that these kinds of products will be used in more and more non-contact recognition,” Chen predicts.

The expected increase in computer imaging and facial recognition for more contactless applications, and 3D hardware in particular for measuring distancing, a wide range of different camera products to serve the range of both applications and markets.

Orbbec develops prototypes and high-end devices in the U.S. for the North American and European markets, Chen says, and engineering teams in China develop lower cost, easy to manufacture models for deployment at scale in the domestic market, India, and other developing markets.

“We need a chance for the new technology that has been prepared in the academical field to grow, or burst into the market. At the current stage, the virus may have a great impact on the decision-making of different companies developing more and more non-contact products.”

Many people formed a negative first impression of facial recognition based on the actions of certain governments, Chen argues, but used in the right way, facial recognition can help protect privacy.

Automated systems can recognize behavior or individuals without storing images of people, allowing numerous security camera systems to remove constant monitoring by humans while maintaining rapid alert capabilities in the event of an emergency. In many other applications, the potential for data loss or abuse is minimal. Chen says that the hard work needed to counter that bad initial first impression many people had is largely complete.

“Apple set a good example, telling people ‘Your data is safe. We’re not going to use it monitor your life,’” Chen points out.

Another factor that could add to the tailwind for 3D imaging and facial recognition is the advance of regulations for facial recognition.

“Reasonable regulation will help people understand the technology,” Chen observes.

With investment in contactless technologies expected to spike, and concern over measuring distance more prominent than ever before, this may be the chance for makers of 3D hardware to show how far their technology has come.

Read more from this interview series

Remote authentication keeps the world working

Biometrics are enabling trust for access control and fraud prevention during the pandemic and resulting social change, and the industry impact could be major and lasting.

Trends in biometrics accelerated by pandemic, analyst Goode sees chance for industry to help humanity

Behavioral biometrics and continuous authentication advance as business adapts to remote everything

Voice biometrics adoption and call center demand increase during lockdown, Pindrop CEO says

Working, shopping and banking from home forces scalable authentication rethink, Nok Nok CEO says

Experian exec on recognition gap, enterprise IAM progress and the biometrics layer

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