Print 24 comment(s) - last by Reclaimer77.. on Jun 10 at 10:36 PM

Facial recognition technology could be used to mine a user's gender, age, and race, Inc. (AMZN) has confirmed a June 18 launch date for its Fire OS smartphone.  The long-rumored phone is Amazon's first foray into the smartphone market.
I. Amazon Phone Gets Official
Rumors of an Amazon Fire OS phone heated up in April of this year, with multiple sources leaking details of the upcoming device, which was reportedly in the late stages of testing in the wild.  One of the most intriguing features is the unique 3D GUI, which adjusts itself by watching the user's facial orientation.  Four infrared cameras in the corners of the device track the user's facial position.
Amazon itself has posted a teaser that more or less confirms this feature:

And thanks to TechCrunch, we now know the supplier behind this technology -- Japan's OMRON Corp. (TYO:6645).  The name isn't very well known among U.S. consumers, as OMRON is primarily a supplier of medical equipment electronics and automation for factory machinery.  But the Japanese electronics firm has also been experimenting with facial tracking for consumer electronics based on some of the same technologies it uses to track plant workers to safeguard them from heavy machinery.
With some heavy modifications, Amazon and OMRON were able to tune the company's Okao Vision offering to deliver its desired stereoscopic GUI.  One perk is that rather than have to swipe or waste screen space on pull out menus, users can access them simply by tilting their head up or down or side to side.
OMRON's system uses the phone's IR cameras, its accelerometer, and gyroscope to quickly determine the user's head orientation with respect to the phone face, with little power used in the process.  Amazon has reportedly been courting top developers to use a currently secret SDK to produce versions of their apps that take advantage of these extreme 3D parallax effects.  It also has redesigns its core apps to take advantage of them.
About the only disappointment is that TechCrunch reports that the phone is indeed going to be 720p (1280x720) in resolution, as some others have suggested.  Given that the phone is only 4.7-inches (versus the Android flagship standard of 5 to 5.5 inches), this lower resolution may be less noticeable, though.
II. Facial Recognition Data Mining?
While Amazon's relationship with Okao is reportedly currently focused solely on head tracking, Amazon could one day use some of the other features in Okao's software kit for some potentially lucrative data-mining.  The kit contains algorithms to recognize a user's gender, age and ethnicity based on their skin color and facial features.
It would not be surprising to see Amazon eventually embrace such features -- despite the controversy -- as one of its strongest showings with Fire OS has been content delivery.
Amazon first delved in to the LCD tablet market in Sept. 2011 with the Kindle Fire, a 7-inch tablet powered by a forked version of Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android, Fire OS.  Fire OS tablets quickly became the strongest challenger to Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) dominance of the tablet market, and while they've waned slightly since as traditional Android offerings grew in popularity, they remain a crucial component of the tablet market.

Amazon has been a top performer in paid content for tablets.

One key reason why Amazon's Fire OS tablets -- now in third place -- remain relevant is that much like Apple, they have seen strong consumption of paid content.  Studies have shown that Fire OS in some cases leads all tablets in paid eBook sales.
Thus the Fire OS phone will likely be scrutinized not only for its unit sales, but in content sales, as well, as analysts look to see whether Amazon's users continue to consume some kinds paid content at a higher rate than Android users.  If those trends hold up, it the Fire OS phone could be a boon to Amazon's bottom line.  And if Amazon can use Okao's advanced image-based data mining techniques to improve its suggestions to users, it could ensure that happens.

Sources: YouTube, TechCrunch

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By Grimer21 on 6/6/2014 3:43:03 PM , Rating: 2
I know it's a small 'market' if you will, but I think with this technology coming mainstream and at consumer-attainable prices it could really benefit people without the use of their arms, whether they are paralyzed or just don't have them at all. Extending this tech to other various applications could really be a life changing thing for them. Pretty cool.

RE: Paralysis
By Reclaimer77 on 6/6/2014 3:55:48 PM , Rating: 1
Imagine moving this type of technology to a game console or set-top box on a big screen TV...

RE: Paralysis
By retrospooty on 6/6/2014 4:27:33 PM , Rating: 1
This + Google Glass could potentially change the way we interface with ... everything. I am not expecting alot from this phone or the initial release of Glass (hopefully later this year), but years from now when the tech is widespread, cheap and well developed.

RE: Paralysis
By Mint on 6/6/2014 4:35:15 PM , Rating: 3
I've been waiting ages for MS to do this with Kinect. Hobbyist programmers have done demos years ago with the Kinect SDK.

Even the simple effect of peeking around a corner would be awesome for FPS games.

RE: Paralysis
By retrospooty on 6/6/2014 5:07:06 PM , Rating: 2
Boxing games come to mind for me. Also, 3 stooges games.

RE: Paralysis
By MrBlastman on 6/9/2014 12:11:10 PM , Rating: 2
If you have a PC, you can do this now. In fact, we have been doing this for years. It is all because of a device called "Track IR." There are now free solutions such as FacetracknoIR but they don't work as well in the dark, unlike Track IR which is infrared based.

RE: Paralysis
By atechfan on 6/6/2014 9:57:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, imagine. Perhaps they could call it something like "Kinect".

RE: Paralysis
By koenshaku on 6/7/14, Rating: 0
RE: Paralysis
By Reclaimer77 on 6/7/2014 4:38:23 PM , Rating: 1
On android it will likely be poorly implemented.

Hey dummy, what OS do you think Amazon is using? Hellooooo.

RE: Paralysis
By Reclaimer77 on 6/7/2014 4:36:58 PM , Rating: 2
I was under the impression the Kinect didn't have the necessary hardware and multiple infrared cameras to pull something like this off.

Do you have any proof or evidence that it's able to do so, or just more MS fanboism?

RE: Paralysis
By extide on 6/9/2014 11:46:53 AM , Rating: 2
Have you used kinect? Especially the XBONE version? It can fully identify up to 4 people at the same time and monitor not only their face but their entire body. It can see what direction you are looking, what you are doing with your hands, legs, etc. It can even recognize different members of your family and auto-log-in to the xbox just based on facial recognition. It's pretty bad ass, really...

RE: Paralysis
By Reclaimer77 on 6/9/2014 1:59:51 PM , Rating: 2
The Kinect only has one infrared camera though, Amazon is using three.

So I don't see why I should assume the Kinect can pull this off. Has nothing to do with how fun or badass it is, it's a question of capability.

RE: Paralysis
By atechfan on 6/10/2014 7:34:24 PM , Rating: 2
One IR camera, one regular camera, and one depth sensor. The Kinect 2 can track individual fingers, can extrapolate bone and joint location, and can even detect heart rate. You seriously think it cannot tell a person's location in respect to the sensor? All we know that this Amazon device can do so far is tell what angle you are looking at it from. That is child's play for the Kinect.

Once again, you show that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

RE: Paralysis
By Reclaimer77 on 6/10/2014 10:36:31 PM , Rating: 2
Hey you think if we shove a Kinect up your ass, it can find what's bugging you? There a sensor for that?

Let me know when...
By peterrushkin on 6/6/2014 3:45:07 PM , Rating: 3
A 5"+ version comes out and when a customisable ROM based on cyanogenmod and I can use these head tracking features. Without having bloatware crap on the phone...

RE: Let me know when...
By retrospooty on 6/6/2014 4:29:03 PM , Rating: 2
Does anyone have one of the most recent Kindle models? Are they slow and bloaty? Or fairly clean and responsive? I havent seen one or anyone with one.

RE: Let me know when...
By Reflex on 6/6/2014 5:23:46 PM , Rating: 2
The HDX line is very nice, extremely responsive and very lightweight. Nothing but nice things to say about them.

RE: Let me know when...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/6/2014 5:56:55 PM , Rating: 2
The HDX also sports the best display you can get in a tablet that size. Bar none.

RE: Let me know when...
By retrospooty on 6/6/2014 6:21:11 PM , Rating: 2
Sweet... I would expect this to follow that.

I am not a fan of the Kindle UI at all though. Its just too limiting. I hope they dont put that on their phones.

RE: Let me know when...
By soccerballtux on 6/9/2014 12:39:09 PM , Rating: 2
just hope it's not too popular. then there will be hundreds of ROMs and you'll never know which is the best because XDA won't allow voting of what ROMs you're using to protect the poor rom makers' feelings.

By koenshaku on 6/7/2014 1:58:20 AM , Rating: 2
I couldn't help but think amazon is going to announce a blonde after watching the video. ^__^

RE: hehe
By peterrushkin on 6/7/2014 2:40:42 PM , Rating: 2
Blonde fembot? I'll buy that for a dollah!

By StormyKnight on 6/7/2014 12:09:02 AM , Rating: 2
Will this phone work with somebody that has severe facial damage or deformities (e.g. burns)?

Nintendo 3DS
By ShaolinSoccer on 6/7/2014 11:41:07 AM , Rating: 2
I believe Nintendo could do something similar on their 3DS. If they wanted to.

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