I recall a few years ago, my friends having a difficult time with their young son when they were getting his photo taken for his passport, the photographer asked for a neutral expression and the boy was determined to not do that despite his parents pleas and promises of ice cream after the shoot. After a fair amount of time the proper photo was taken much to the parents relief, I’m sure the photographer was happy as as well but was no doubt questioning his choice of career!
When I was in high school in the 80’s, It was announced that the Québec suburb l was living in was getting public transit bus service. We were to get our photo taken for a student transit pass immediately. I remember having to get my father to drive me downtown on a Saturday morning to the office where the ID cards were processed. There was a huge lineup of students waiting. The operator looked so stressed out as the students filed in to get their photos taken. There was no direction involved so of course being the teenage rebel I was I made the goofiest face I could possibly make. When I received my Photo ID 15 mins later my father wasn’t impressed. Later on I got a lot of funny looks from the bus drivers when I got on the bus, It’s obvious that the aim of the ID card in this case was just for student identification.
Before we answer the question “Can you smile in an ID card?” let’s look at the technology involved in taking an ID photograph.
Facial recognition technology is the system used in ID photography to identify or verify a person from a digital image. It has also been described as “Biometric Artificial Intelligence”.
In general this system works by analyzing a persons facial features in a non invasive way, and encrypting the data.
The procedure is as follows:
• Portrait image is captured
• Eye locations are determined
• Image is converted to a template used by a search engine for facial comparison results
• Searching and matching using a sophisticated algorithm to compare the template to other templates on file
The history of facial recognition technology goes back to 1964 and is credited to Woody Bledsoe, Helen Chan Wolf, and Charles Bisson who developed the technology using computers to recognize human faces. This project was originally called “man-machine” as it would extract human features from photographs and then be used by computers for recognition.
The technology was further developed by the Stanford Research Institute’s Peter Hart and then later developed by Christoph von der Malsburg and graduate students of the University of Bochum in Germany and University of Southern California. By 1997 the software was in operation in banks and airports, further developments occurred in 2006 which increased accuracy.
Although this system is advanced it is far from perfect, various factors can affect the performance of the system such as the subject’s facial expression as well as lighting and other factors. In 2009 Canada only allowed neutral facial expressions in passport photos moving forward.
So, in other words, NO! You can’t smile in an ID card photo since facial recognition software works best without any expression.
There are other technologies available however, other than facial recognition when designing a Photo ID card to validate authentication. This includes Iris, vein, or fingerprint matching, human gait, handwriting, and even vocal patterns. The use of the card and the needs of the organization or company will determine which technologies are necessary.