Spy Scientists Want Algorithms to Team Up on Facial Recognition

(Original photo credit: Danilo Ugaddan via Pexels; Graphic by Lee Ferran)

(Original photo credit: Danilo Ugaddan via Pexels; Graphic by Lee Ferran)

The U.S. intelligence community's mad scientists are looking to outside researchers to come up with better facial recognition systems by smashing multiple algorithms together.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (cousins to the military's mad scientists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) announced this week a new contest dubbed FOFRA, the "Fusion of Face Recognition Algorithms."

"The challenge aims to improve recognition of face images through fusing the outputs of multiple algorithms applied to the same input imagery," says an announcement on the website for the Director of Intelligence.

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"Face recognition has made significant advances in recent years and the fusion of more than one algorithm has shown to improve its accuracy. IARPA is in a unique position to provide data for researchers to develop fusion methods that should further improve performance,” IARPA program manager Chris Boehnen said in the press release. “These fusion schemes could allow users to leverage multiple algorithms without overhauling or re-designing the core technologies.”

Whoever can help solve the problem could be awarded part of a $70,000 total "prize purse," IARPA said.

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It's hardly the first time the intelligence community has looked to competitions with cash prizes to test the boundaries of intelligence-related tech in an unclassified setting.

In February, I reported for RealClearLife that a contest sponsored by the Director of Intelligence led to algorithms that could write analytical intelligence reports. They weren't very good, but what they lacked in substance, they made up for in speed -- the winning program provided the full reports drawn from thousands of sources in "about 10 seconds," according to the ODNI.

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