Last March, when we all started wearing masks, phone makers suddenly had a big problem. The facial recognition systems used to authenticate users on their phones no longer worked. The AI models that powered them couldn’t recognize users’ faces because they’d been trained using images of only unmasked faces. The unique identifiers they’d been trained to look for were suddenly hidden.
Phone makers needed to expand their training data to include a wide assortment of images of masked faces, and quickly. But scraping such images from the web comes with privacy issues, and capturing and labeling high numbers of images is cost- and labor-intensive.
Enter Synthesis AI, which has made a business of producing synthetic images of nonexistent people to train AI models.
The San Francisco-based startup needed only a couple of weeks to develop a large set of masked faces, with variations in the type and position of the mask on the face. It then delivered them to its phone-maker…