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Facial recognition could open up ‘no-touch’ controls

02 December, 2013

Omron has demonstrated a facial recognition technology that could open up new ways for humans to interact with machines and automation systems. On its stand at the recent SPS IPC Drives exhibition in Germany, the company was showing how its Okao technology – originally developed for consumer applications – could be used to control access to machines and to enhance safety by only allowing recognised personnel to approach moving machines.

The technology uses a camera and vision system to detect and evaluate machine operators’ faces and gestures. It can restrict their access to pre-defined areas. The access authorisation can be controlled centrally.

The Okao technology is already being used in cameras and smartphones that take pictures only when a person is smiling. It can recognise, analyse and process facial features and assess factors such as gender and emotional state. Using patented statistical analysis techniques, it is possible to fit a 2D model to a 3D facial shape and create a reliable “identity” for a particular face.

Omron says that the technology will open new ways of interacting with machines. It can identify an operator from a distance and verify them as someone who is (or is not) allowed to work on the machine. The technology could also recognise an approaching person and decide how close they are allowed to approach a machine before, for example, switching off moving parts.

Currently, engineers or operators need to be close to an HMI to make changes and to enter passwords. In the future, Omron predicts, a machine will be able to recognise who is using it from a distance and allow them to make changes depending on their authorisation level.

Omron's Okao facial recognition technology can identify people and could be used to restrict access to machines

At the SPS show, Omron was also demonstrating a new machine interface that, it says, will make it quick and easy to implement dynamic and intuitive user interfaces that can boost productivity and minimise downtime by giving detailed real-time and historical insights into machine operation. The NA machine interface is part of Omron’s Sysmac automation platform and uses the same Sysmac Studio development software, which covers all areas of automation, including logic, motion, vision and safety.

As Omron develops the NA system further, it plans to integrate it with the Okao recognition technology.

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