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Facial Recognition Technology Now on Commercial Market

API allows developers to write software based on the Animetrics' facial recognition technology.

Animetrics, a Conway, N.H., company that helps law enforcement agencies around the world catch criminals, is now selling its facial-recognition technology through commercial licensing.

One of Anemetrics' clients is working on allowing customers to try on sunglasses through the use of a computer-generated 3-D image of themselves without stepping foot in a store, according to Paul Schuepp, president and CEO.

"You can be home and take a picture with your iPhone," Schuepp said Tuesday, March 25. Using a website, that person soon should be able to check out the 3-D photos of themselves wearing various eyeglass styles illustrated at different angles.

This latest endeavor involves Animetrics releasing its first application programming interface (API), which specifies how software components should interact and be used. The FaceR API allows software developers to write computer programs based on the company's facial-recognition technology to suit their individual needs. Last year's federal spending cutbacks, known as sequestration, cost Animetrics "tens of millions" of dollars in revenue in one year alone from defense contracts canceled or put on hold, he said.

The company, which employs fewer than 10 workers, "was just barely profitable" as a result, Schuepp said. "Previously, we were much more profitable as we were growing with the government business."

Government work included subcontract work with the U.S. Department of Defense involving projects he isn't allowed to talk about because they are classified. Others using the software include the New York Police Department and the Massachusetts jail system.

Schuepp doesn't have a firm count on the number of alleged criminals his company has helped apprehend.

"I know it's in the hundreds because our stuff is installed at the NYPD," Schuepp said.

The software also is "used in the fight on terrorism," he said. "It's been acquired, and part of it's been funded by the intelligence community." Popular Science magazine mentioned the company in a January story titled, The End of Anonymity."

Animetrics' technology allows a police department to take a photo and create a 3-D image and enhance it to make it ready to compare to photos contained in a criminal database.

"It's never a match," Schuepp said. "It's always a most similarly looking person. It gives the detective a lead. It looks like this guy in the database, you may want to investigate it further." But the company has no New Hampshire clients in law enforcement.

"New Hampshire is one of the adverse states to using face recognition unfortunately," Schuepp said. "They got concerns about privacy." Kairos, a Miami-based company, said in a statement that it uses Animetrics technology to track the workplace time of employees.

"They are the engine that makes facial recognition work," Kairos CEO Brian Brackeen said.

Companies using Animetrics' FaceR API pay a monthly fee. A company wanting 500,000 transactions a month, for example, would pay $900 a month.

The technology has its limits, such as when it comes to identifying from grainy surveillance videos who robbed a convenience store.

"Ninety percent of them are useless because cameras were not designed to be set up for face recognition," he said.

©2014 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)