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I’ve loved cars since I was a little boy. From classic cars to custom hot rods, I loved them all, but I was especially fascinated by the futuristic vehicles featured on TV. Depending on which generation you identify with, you might remember Kitt from Knight Rider, the Batmobile, or the nameless Delorean from Back to the Future. Not only were these cars fast, they could think, talk and sometimes even see.

AI has given us the first generation of autonomous cars — and it’s pretty impressive. But there is a host of next generation of AI-enhanced features that go even further in providing convenience and ensuring passenger safety.

Auto-evolution: AI at the edge for cars

Xnor is focused on bringing computer vision to edge devices, so our technology is particularly valuable for automobiles and commercial vehicles. Every AI capability we offer – whether it involves people, object or face recognition – delivers a degree of speed and accuracy that until recently, was only possible using a high-end processor augmented by a neural accelerator. We take that same level of performance, improve upon it, and make it available on an edge device, such as a 1 GHz ARM processor or a simple onboard computer.

Check out this demo of our computer vision technology:

Object detection capabilities

Crime prevention

For car sharing companies or taxis, the system can enforce security regulations by recognizing when passengers hold weapons or other objects that present a safety hazard.

Loss prevention

Using object detection, the system can remind a passenger to retrieve the phone or purse they left on the seat. Transportation and logistics companies could receive an alert if a package was not delivered at the end of a route.

Face recognition capabilities

Here are a few of the capabilities that can be incorporated into a line of vehicles using Xnor’s face recognition or action detection models.

Secure access

Using face recognition, a driver can be authenticated even before they enter a vehicle. The door could automatically open for people recognized by the car, making hands-free entry possible. Our technology would even allow the car to differentiate between children and adults. Commercial vehicles could use that information to control access to certain areas by authorizing drivers.

Because all of this is done on-device, the data doesn’t need to be transmitted to the cloud, making it significantly more secure and practical of a feature.

Personalization

Once a driver or passenger is authenticated, the car could adjust settings to align with personal preferences, such as the position of the seat and steering column, interior temperature and infotainment system settings.

Driver awareness

ML-powered driver monitoring can tell when a driver is looking at a phone, instead of the road ahead. And if the driver becomes drowsy and their eyelids start to close, the system will know that too.

Emergency response

In the event of a crash or another emergency, the system can generate a passenger list, and notify someone if the driver does not respond to an audible alarm.

Passenger safety

Action detection models can be trained to detect specific gestures like fastening a seatbelt to ensure that everyone is buckled in.

Person and pet detection models can identify if a pet is left inside a car (a potentially dangerous situation on a hot day) or if an infant or small child is left behind, and then sound an alarm to notify the driver.

AI at the edge drives automotive innovation

Without recent advances in deep learning for computer vision, many of these features would be too difficult or expensive to implement.

Xnor’s AI technology is unique in that it delivers state-of-the-art performance on a commodity processor, using only the bare minimum for energy and memory.

Even with a simple onboard computer, Xnor models execute at up to 10x faster than conventional solutions – while using up to 15x less memory and 30x less energy.

Taken together, all these capabilities make it both practical and profitable for automobile manufacturers to incorporate high-performance computer vision into a variety of applications for the commercial and consumer vehicle markets.

At Xnor, we’re fascinated by the creative and powerful ways our customers are working to incorporate machine learning into their line of cars and commercial vehicles. It’s not as cool as owning one of the super-smart, fast-talking exotic cars that my TV heroes used to drive, but it comes pretty close.

Read more about how you can incorporate the latest in computer vision into your line of vehicles.

Search for the term “the future of retailing” and you’ll see plenty of stories about physical retailers being marginalized by their dot-com counterparts. Some would say that physical stores are fading from the retail landscape. Quaint, but doomed. To understand why consider the shopping experiences offered by each channel.

Online vs. Offline

For example, while checking the number of followers in their Instagram account, your future customer sees an image of their favorite celeb wearing shoes that they simply must have. Other distractions intervene, but after seeing several banner ads they finally click, swipe or tap their way to an online store. Thanks to cookies and ad tracking, the site already knows a great deal about the customer, from their purchase history down to their shoe size. The customer browses for products, reads reviews and compares items. With each click, the store knows a little bit more.

As the customer moves through the site, the convenience, selection and price advantage of shopping online becomes obvious. When they make a purchase, the customer can be rewarded for their loyalty with a coupon code, and the inventory system knows which item to reorder.

On the other hand, a retail store doesn’t know who you are the moment you walk in the door. They don’t know if you’ve bought from them – or from any of their competitors – before. They have no idea what color you like, or what shoe size you wear. Traditional retailers rely heavily on in-store displays or staff to guide customers through the store.

Now replay that scenario – but with one difference. This time it’s a physical store equipped with the latest generation in AI. Small cameras placed throughout the store use computer vision to provide an advanced level of retail analytics, possibly even better than what is available to online stores, while also creating a better experience for shoppers.

The Customer Journey in an AI-enabled Store

In this new scenario, a face recognition algorithm identifies customers and their demographics as they walk through the front door. Maybe this individual is a regular shopper and a member of your loyalty program. Based on their purchase history, you can send them a notification while they are in your store about new offerings that may be enticing to them.

As they move through the aisles, multiple cameras recognize that customer as the same person and track them throughout the store. Do the endcap displays attract their attention? Where do they stop and spend time? Does the location of a preferred product impact what else they buy nearby? Once your customers are at the check-out counter, payment can be as simple as a quick scan of their face.

On a larger scale, this data can be used to develop in-depth, real-time heatmaps without having to lift a finger. The information can also be bolstered with other AI capabilities such as emotion detection and action recognition in order to build highly detailed customer insights. Your customers and their paths through the store are now actionable data for your business, opening up a vast number of opportunities.

Security and Store Operations

The analytics you collect on the floor will impact your customers and their experiences, but there’s a slew of potential opportunities behind the scenes that can streamline operations for your business.

Surveillance and access control are important in-store functions for avoiding crime and unauthorized activity. Using Xnor’s AI capabilities, security can be enhanced with features like weapon or dangerous action detection. Secure areas can be better controlled with computer vision solutions like face recognition and person detection to make sure only the right people have access to restricted areas.

Another particularly valuable function is inventory management. Knowing when items are out of stock on the shelves helps to restock more efficiently. Creating efficient, real-time solutions for monitoring items also helps to keep vendors up-to-date on their products within your store as well as how they are performing. This can also be tied to traffic patterns so you can understand how often people are interacting with different products.

Gaining a competitive advantage

Many see the future of retail as being fully automated, but that shift won’t happen overnight. Retailers are beginning to introduce these capabilities piece by piece in order to stay ahead without having to completely overhaul operations. By incorporating AI solutions developed by Xnor, your store will avoid the headaches of conventional AI solutions. Xnor models can run on commodity devices, so you don’t need to upgrade your cameras or pay for expensive cloud-computing services (which are less secure). Running on-device also reduces latency and power consumption so your solutions will pick up that power-walker even on a battery-powered camera that you can place anywhere.

With Xnor’s computer vision models, physical stores can have the retail analytics they need to compete with their online counterparts – and help a loyal customer to find the perfect pair of shoes.

Visit Xnor to learn how the next generation in AI can help your retail store compete.

 

2010 was a milestone year for face recognition. That’s when Facebook introduced a photo tagging feature with the ability to identify individuals in a photograph by matching faces to the pictures stored in a user’s profile. The feature was popular but frequently inaccurate. Getting the best results required the people in the photograph to look directly into the lens. Accuracy was also dependent on the quality of the user’s Facebook profile picture and other photos they were tagged in. Blurs caused by camera motion, reflective surfaces and light levels all had a negative impact on performance. But it was a start.

Flash forward nine years. Face recognition has been adopted by several industries, most notably in the areas of law enforcement and home / commercial security. Biometric measures such as retinal scans and voice analysis are also useful in security applications, but face identification is still the preferred method.

Other biometric measures require users to physically interact with a device or to voluntarily position themselves next to a sensor. Think of pressing your palm against a reader, speaking directly into a microphone, or staring, unblinking, into a lens while a computer scans your retina. Measurements like these are impractical when it comes to identifying one individual in a large group of people moving through an airport.

Despite the inherent advantages of face recognition, the technology is still in its infancy. Here are four areas where the standard approach has failed to live up to its potential.

The limitations of standard face recognition technology

1) Low accuracy

Camera angles have a strong influence on how successfully a face can be detected and identified. Most of the existing models need to compare multiple angles, including profiles and full-frontal views, to achieve the best results. Facial hair, makeup, scarves, and hats can cause trouble. Ideally, a subject must hold still, remove their eyeglasses and look into the lens or a number of photos have to be taken from different angles. This makes training for face recognition extremely difficult.

2) Compute requirements

Whether it’s analyzing images to run the model or training a new model, traditional recognition algorithms need to run on a robust processor with a neural or GPU accelerator – and they need a persistent, high-bandwidth connection to the cloud. In fact, during training, most face recognition algorithms require multiple photos from thousands of people. Once the parent model is trained, the model still has to be pushed to the cloud or run expensive hardware to work for your specific face. This causes latency and security issues and delivers a poor user experience.

3) Inflexible deployment options

Standard technology requires developers to accommodate the need for fast processors and access to cloud-hosted servers. That rules out deploying face apps in remote areas and on cheap devices. This limits the applications for face identification and forces developers using computer vision apps to make compromises on user experience, responsiveness, accuracy, and data security.

4) High cost

Unsurprisingly, incorporating face recognition capabilities into an existing app often requires a hardware upgrade.

Self-contained deep learning models

At Xnor, we realized that eliminating these restrictions required a completely new approach, so we started at the beginning: the learning models. Our computer vision technology is trained to operate in a range of environmental conditions. The resulting facial signatures can accurately analyze faces in live video streams at more than 30 FPS on GPU-enabled hardware and at 4 FPS on resource-constrained hardware, such as a CPU, regardless of changing lighting conditions, movement or camera angles.

In real life, people don’t stare directly at a lens, without moving or waiting for an algorithm to do its work. People are in motion. Expressions can change several times in the time it takes you to read this paragraph. Faces can be partially obscured by eyeglasses, a scarf, a hat, makeup or even earrings. Our deep learning models ensure accuracy regardless of the subject’s skin tone or fashion sensibilities.

Even better, the training for the individual face can happen completely on-device, with as few as three images. This means you don’t need to take hundreds or thousands of photos of a face or use a large number of frames from a video.  This makes our solution completely edge-enabled. There’s no need to rely on a cloud solution or risk downtime with network and service outages, and most importantly, it makes face identification possible for cheap hardware.

Speed and reliability

Xnor’s apps can detect and identify individual faces in real-time, on-device (at up to 5 frames per second), utilizing a commodity camera, or on embedded hardware running on a processor as small as 1 GHz. In fact, we’re currently running face recognition on an Ambarella S5L commodity chip. Without the need for an internet connection, the real applications for these ML algorithms are enormous. It’s now possible to use advanced face identification features in remote locations, or in situations where maximizing uptime is essential.

Security

Our face recognition algorithms and training models can be run completely on-device, using a low-end processor. Personal information is stored on the device, not transmitted to the cloud for processing, where it can become vulnerable to security breaches. Taken together, these capabilities allow developers to build face identification apps that not only offer increased performance, they go farther in protecting sensitive data.

A new approach yields new capabilities

In addition to enhancing performance, Xnor’s technology allows developers to integrate new capabilities into their applications, such as the ability to determine the subject’s age or gender, which direction they are looking, and whether the subject is happy, angry, scared, sad or surprised. This new technology will create new opportunities for developers to use face recognition in more powerful ways, in more scenarios, and, most importantly, on more devices.

Visit us to learn how to incorporate the next generation of face recognition into a broad range of applications.