In an effort to enhance its photo and video capabilities, Facebook has agreed to acquire FacioMetrics, a Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) spinoff company that develops facial analysis software for mobile applications.
FacioMetrics would “help bring more fun effects to photos and videos and build even more engaging sharing experiences” for the platform,” the social media giant said in an announcement yesterday.
FacioMetrics founder and CEO Fernando De la Torre confirmed the agreement on the company’s website, saying that by joining the team at Facebook, they could advance their work “at an incredible scale, reaching people from across the globe.”
Facebook made a similar move in 2007 when it purchased Face.com, a startup that developed technology able to identify photo subjects. FacioMetrics takes that technology a step further by reading and recognizing facial expressions or emotions displayed on the human face.
Formerly known as Intraface, the FacioMetrics software was originally developed for a variety of purposes. Researchers at Duke University, for instance, incorporated IntraFace into a research app to gauge the effectiveness of facial expression analysis as a screening tool for autism.
Details on how exactly the technology will complement Facebook are unknown, especially since De la Torre describes FacioMetrics as a response “to the increasing interest and demand for facial image analysis—with all kinds of applications including augmented/virtual reality, animation, audience reaction measurement, and others.”
Louis-Philippe Morency, an assistant professor of facial analysis software at CMU’s Language Technologies Institute, believes the natural first step for FacioMetrics’s use on Facebook would involve enhancing or modifying images. With it, users could change the face altogether or add makeup or accessories like a hat or glasses.
Simon Lucey, a CMU robotics professor who specializes in “computer vision,” a discipline that attempts to extract information from images and videos, says that FacioMetrics would allow Facebook to compete with popular image modification apps like Snapchat.
“To many people, that makes it sound like a bit of a toy,” says Lucey. “It’s a really great strategy because fundamentally I think people are sort of narcissistic. They love looking at their faces. If you want people to use one app over another app, you need something that allows them to look at themselves.”
He also cites other potential applications for FacioMetrics, including as a way for Facebook to gauge a user’s response to advertising.
“You might watch an advert, and if the camera is on at the same time, these companies can get feedback based on reaction,” says Lucey. “That’s something I think a lot of these big tech companies would find invaluable.”
Regardless of how FacioMetrics is utilized, Morency sees its acquisition by Facebook as an inspiration to area tech professionals and the startup scene.
“We’ve seen a boom in CMU and Pittsburgh with robotics, computer science and AI in general, so it’s really exciting for that,” says Morency.