Sunday, March 18, 2007

Video Filtering: IBM Research on Automatic Face Masking and Privacy

IBM has been moving into the video surveillance services market as of late. Now comes word on some of its research into technologies that might support that. They are not the first to work on automatic face masking but it is the first time I've seen this privacy angle to it - automatically detect, track, and mask (i.e. blur) all faces on an incoming video stream and then selectively unmask as required to identify someone. I've worked with this regularly over the last ten years, so I know that it is a very challenging problem to do reliably, particularly with "real", not laboratory, video.


Tony said...

Hi, this is not directly related to your post.
Do you know about any software that can automatically blur out face in images?
This is for my friend who is a doctor, he has a lot of images of his patients and is in search of an easy solution.
Thanks in advance
Tony (

Keith said...

Hi Tony,
there are tools that are available to assist law enforcement in masking or highlighting faces in video clips for presentation in court, but they generally require that the operator designate where the face(s) are in key frames every so often. Even so, it can be a big time saver.

As far as what your friend requires, I am not aware of any commercial tools for doing this. There are various research efforts underway on automatic face detection at universities around the world, but the output of the ones I have seen is a box drawn around the face(s), not a mask over the face. These research efforts typically are trying to solve internet search problems such as finding all pictures of a celebrity or whoever else.

Just so you know, I also reached out into the forensic video community to see if someone else might know of something, but no one there knew of a commercial product or service to meet this requirement either.

Sorry for not being able to help more, but thanks for asking the question. If you do find something, please let me know. It seems to me that all of the required bits of technology are there for a commercial product to be developed and that what is needed now is a vendor to step up and integrate a product or service.
Kind Regards,