A brilliant place to test this new scanner is San Francisco. And that is precisely where SceneTap has introduced its newly launched app this weekend that will scan the faces of patrons in 25 bars across the city to determine their ages and genders.
Would-be customers can then check their smartphones for real-time updates on the crowd size, average age and men-to-women mix to decide whether the scene is to their liking.
SceneTap’s ability to guess how old people are and whether they’re men or women relies on advances in a field known as biometrics. A camera at the door snaps your picture, and software maps your features to a grid. By measuring distances such as the length between the nose and the eyes and the eyes and the ears, an algorithm matches your dimensions to a database of averages for age and gender.
Whether or not you think this is creepy, it portends a near future when any camera-equipped smartphone will have the ability to recognize faces with a click of the virtual shutter.
Already the iPhone’s camera app will highlight a person’s face on the screen with a green box before the picture is even snapped. And Apple’s iPhoto software will try to recognize the faces of the people in users’ pictures to categorize photos automatically by who’s in the shot.
Facebook also uses facial recognition software that tries to identify any friends in a photo a user uploads.
Along with the visual images being deleted nearly as soon as they’re snapped, SceneTap’s sensors aren’t sophisticated enough to recognize individual faces in any case. Detecting basic characteristics like gender and age takes much less digital work than identifying individuals.
SceneTap is already in use in six other cities across the country, including Chicago and several college towns.