Friday, February 26, 2010

Recognizr: Facial Recognition Coming to Android Phones

Swedish software and design company The Astonishing Tribe, also known as TAT, has been developing a rather astonishing augmented reality application for mobile phones. Originally built as a software concept, the Android app called 'Recongnizr' is a mobile prototype that allows you to use your phone in order to 'see' who a person is and what web services and social networks they're connected to. App users can also associate traditional address book details with their profile like their full name, address, phone number and email, for example.

And all of this data can be accessed just by aiming your mobile phone at someone's face.


We first looked at TAT's mobile concept back in July of last year. At that time, the application was called 'Augmented ID.' Using facial recognition and tracking technology from Polar Rose, a photo tagging startup, the app is able to match 3D models of faces captured with the phone's camera to those stored in a database on remote servers. This matching technique, which captures the shape of the face and other distinctive features like the contour of the eyes, the nose, and the chin, is one of the three methodologies for performing facial recognition. It's ideal for mobile interfaces such as those found in Augmented ID/Recognizr because it's not one that's affected by low-lighting scenarios, a very real possibility for mobile interfaces such as this.

Improvements to the App

Since our last look at Augmented ID, it's clear that the company has been making great strides in the development of this mobile application. Most notably, the interface's design has been greatly improved. It now has a much cleaner layout and looks to be far easier to use. The social networking icons, for example, now appear big and bubbly, casually overlaid on top of each other in a row at the bottom of the screen, ready for dragging upward when you go to create your own profile. The same icons, all evenly sized, also float around people's heads after the app recognizes them. You can then tap the icons to see the profile information they contain. For example, a Twitter icon could showcase the user's latest tweets when tapped.

The recognition process, too, seems improved. A square shown by a broken line appears on your mobile's screen around the face you're trying to recognize. This closely resembles the autofocus systems found on most digital cameras today. When the app 'sees' the face, the square's outline turns from grey to green and the social networking icons zoom in from all sides to float around that person's face.

The only downside to Recognizr (besides the fact that the prototype isn't available for use today!) is that it requires both participants to use the mobile application in order to work. That makes the app far less creepy than some all-knowing 'Minority Report'-like technology, but severely limits its potential at the same time. Since the prototype is currently Android-only, too, the database of users available for facial matching would only include those who have installed the application on their Android phone and have taken the time to set up their own profile.

That's not to say that some future version of the application couldn't scour the web for faces to match - implementing this feature would be challenging, but not entirely impossible. There are plenty of photos on social networks to pull from in the case that a particular person wasn't already a Recognizr user. However, whether or not the company plans to develop their app to that point is unknown at this time.

Coming Soon to Android

After demonstrating Recognizr at the recent Mobile World Congress, Dan Gärdenfors, head of user experience research at TAT, announced that his company plans to partner with someone who can help bring the mobile concept app to market. He anticipates having a commercial application available in a little as a month or two.

You can watch video demos of both Augmented ID and Recognizr on YouTube, here and here.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Week in Microsoft: Windows Phone 7 Series arrives

Windows Phone 7 Series arrives:

This week at Mobile World Congress, Microsoft showed off its new phone platform for the first time. Everything that we knew and loathed about Windows Mobile is gone. Even the name is different. It's now 'Windows Phone 7 Series.'

One of the many unanswered questions about Windows Phone 7 Series is what the application development situation will be like. A few details have started to emerge; through both official and unofficial channels and the big news is that application development will use managed code more or less exclusively.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Google Buzz vs. Twitter and Facebook

Google strikes again!!

The folks at Google just rolled out yet another application that tackles an area previously dominated by Twitter and Facebook: Microblogging! Microblogging is posting small entries that usually consist of nothing but a short sentence fragment, or an image or embedded video. This is commonly known as "tweeting" for those who use Twitter (except that Twitter only allows text and URLs - no images or videos). The same concept is found in Facebook where users post status updates, images, videos and links.

Enter Google Buzz: a microblogging system on top of Gmail that enables users of posting text, photos, videos, etc., and share with either their friends or everyone. Watch this video to get the idea:

Google Buzz is being enabled into the existing Gmail accounts slowly, so it's not yet available for all users. I haven't tried it out myself yet, but I can't wait to start "buzzing"

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Windows 7 growing faster than Vista, overtakes Mac OS X

Windows 7 growing faster than Vista, overtakes Mac OS X

Windows 7 sold well during the 2009 holiday season, and the results are showing up, not only in sheer revenue, but in the OS market share numbers as well. Nevertheless, in December 2009, Linux was the only operating system to show positive percentage growth in market share.

Between November and December 2009, Windows market share dropped 0.31 percentage points (from 92.52 percent to 92.21 percent), Mac OS dipped 0.01 percentage points (from 5.12 percent to 5.11 percent), and Linux edged forward 0.02 percentage points (from 1.00 percent to 1.02 percent).

Strong sales from Windows 7 and Snow Leopard were not enough to stop both Windows overall and Mac OS overall from dropping. When putting this into perspective across the whole year, though, we see that Windows was actually sliding steadily throughout 2009 (93.66 percent in January 2009), while both Mac OS (4.71 percent in January 2009) and Linux (0.90 percent in January 2009) have been gaining.

You can see the market share pie for December 2009, according to Net Applications, at the top of this post. The graph directly above this paragraph shows how things at Ars are different from those elsewhere, but the differences aren't as significant when it comes to the browser market: our Mac OS share is more than five times greater than the rest of the world, while Linux is six times more. Nevertheless, more than half of our users are on Windows.

Even if Windows is slowly losing share, Windows 7 is doing phenomenally well. Above, you can see how quickly the OS has been gaining share in its first few months compared to Windows Vista's first few months.

While Vista was at 0.93 percent after a month, Windows 7 was at 4.00 percent; when Vista jumped to 2.04 percent after two months, Windows 7 hit 5.71 percent.

There are many reasons for this, including the fact that Vista had to compete with XP, which was on the market for an abnormally long time. Furthermore, Windows 7 arrived in time for holiday sales, while Vista did not. In addition, Windows 7 had a very successful beta program, both private and public. Most importantly though, Microsoft managed to generate the kind of hype around Windows 7 that it hasn't generated around any of its operating systems in years.

In terms of OS versions, Windows saw the following changes between November and December: Windows XP dropped 1.28 percentage points (from 69.05 percent to 67.77 percent), Windows Vista dropped 0.68 percentage points (from 18.55 percent to 17.87 percent), and Windows 7 gained 1.71 percentage points (from 4.00 percent to 5.71 percent), meaning it has passed all versions of Mac OS. Speaking of which, Mac OS saw the following progress: version 10.4 dipped 0.04 percentage points (from 0.84 percent to 0.80 percent), version 10.5 dipped 0.14 percentage points (from 2.61 percent to 2.47 percent), and version 10.6 moved up 0.22 percentage points (from 1.38 percent to 1.60 percent).

Taking the historical perspective, we can see that Windows Vista and Windows 7 together have just over a third of Windows XP's market share, while Mac OS 10.5 and 10.6 together have more than five times the market share of Mac OS 10.4.

Before the end of 2010, we're expecting to see Windows 7 pass Windows Vista, Windows XP to drop below the 50 percent mark, and Mac OS X 10.6 to pass 10.5 and 10.4 combined.

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