Facial recognition in cinemas to track how you enjoy a Disney movie

Disney facial recognition in cinemas caltech research project

Disney is producing blockbusters all the time, every time, and they hope facial recognition in cinemas will help them make better movies.

It’s no secret that movie-making uses complex formulas to establish what exactly moviegoers want to see, especially nowadays. With Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services keeping you tied to your couch, cinemas around the world report lower and lower attendance numbers (and tickets sold!).

This could all change thanks to a research project undertaken by Disney Research alongside Caltech. It uses a facial expression tracking network that will learn and predict how members of the audience react. It’s also the possible future of Nielsen ratings, if cinemas adopt it.

The project was just presented at IEEE’s Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference, demonstrating a new way in which facial expressions can be reliably tracked in real time. An infrared hi-def camera uses facial recognition in cinemas by capturing moviegoers faces and expressions, then feeds this data (more than 16 million data points) into a neural network.

At the demo, the team set the system to watch audience footage in real time and attempt to predict the expression a certain face would make at various points in the movie. The results? Most people take about 10 minutes to warm out to the movie. After that, the technology reliably predicted positive facial expressions like laughs and smiles. You can read more about the demo here, in the official documentation.

The technology is definitely impressive and of course, it has multiple possible applications, as highlighted by one of the developers in the press release.

“Understanding human behavior is fundamental to developing AI systems that exhibit greater behavioral and social intelligence.For example, developing AI systems to assist in monitoring and caring for the elderly relies on being able to pick up cues from their body language. After all, people don’t always explicitly say that they are unhappy or have some problem,” said Yisong Yue from Caltech.

We look forward to seeing those applications and we’re not against using facial recognition in cinemas. Who knows, maybe if George Lucas sees our reactions to the new movies, the Star Wars franchise may be on the right path again. Here’s to hoping!

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