Lenovo has been all over the CES demonstrating their new consumer notebooks and we’ve covered them a bit here on jkOnTheRun. One of the coolest technologies that these IdeaPads come with is the facial recognition technology that is used to securely log users into the systems. It works like this, the user first enrolls his/her face into the system using the utility software and the integrated web cam and the software digitizes the contours of the face. Once enrolled the facial recognition software runs at start time and the user simply has to sit in front of the notebook. The utility then scans the user’s face via the web cam and in a second or two the user is automatically logged into the Windows system. It is extremely accurate and much simpler even than fingerprint recognition technology which is the rage on notebooks these days. Lenovo is proud of this technology and all of the demo notebooks on display have been running the facial recognition stuff which displays like a screen saver at login time. Xavier Lanier (whom we were happy to meet yesterday) has posted a video of the technology in action which shows how simple, fast and accurate this is on the new Lenovo notebooks. You may be surprised to find out that this technology is not new, in fact I used this technology about ten years ago.
I received the advance specifications of the new Lenovo notebooks weeks ago under embargo and in that material the facial recognition technology was described with images to show how it worked on the new notebooks. I remember reading this at the time and realizing that I had used this exact technology ten years ago. I was using a ThinkPad notebook at that time and had purchased a USB web cam from IBM, at that time budding hardware technology, and the web cam came with this exact facial recognition technology! I used it a lot as it is very accurate and easy to use and liked it a great deal. I always wondered why other companies didn’t produce similar utilities because it worked so well.
Last night at the ShowStoppers event here in Vegas Kevin and I visited again with the Lenovo folks and they demoed the facial recognition stuff and they were understandably proud of the technology. I pointed out to the Lenovo rep that I had bought a ThinkPad-branded USB web cam for my ThinkPad ten years ago and that this technology was included with that cam. The rep was a long-time IBM employee prior to becoming a Lenovo employee when they bought the ThinkPad line from IBM and he was happy that someone was familiar that this technology came from IBM way back when. He was impressed that someone finally realized this as the original IBM ThinkPad group was proud of all the advanced technology they had produced way back when. He admitted that the old technology was so good that it works pretty much now as it did back then and that’s why Lenovo now felt it important enough to pre-install it on these new notebooks with integrated web cams.
I remember using this facial recognition stuff back then very well because it was fool-proof security. Once my face was enrolled all I had to do was sit down in front of the ThinkPad and in seconds would be logged into Windows. I mentioned to the Lenovo rep last night that the older utility also had a security feature where it would run unobtrusively in the background when the system was "sleeping" and when it detected motion in front of the camera could be configured to snap a photo of whoever sat down in front of the notebook. This is very good technology as I was able to use it at the time to determine who was trying to access the ThinkPad in my office at night after I left for the day. It turned out one of the cleaning staff was trying to log into my ThinkPad and the facial recognition software snapped their photo along with a date/time stamp which was used to provide the cleaning company with proof this was happening. I mentioned this to the Lenovo rep last night and he said the new utility being shipped now also has this capability.
I can vouch for the usefulness of this technology first-hand from personal experience and purchasers of one of these new Lenovo notebooks can rest assured it is a great security feature that is very easy to use. It’s funny how a new attention-grabbing technology turns out to be quite old as the original IBM technology was ahead of its time. If you used one of these ThinkPad web cams back then you may be familiar with this "new" technology and can also attest to how good it was/ is. Leave a comment if you’ve used it before.