NIST Evaluation Shows Advance in Face Recognition Software’s Capabilities

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Between 2014 and 2018, facial recognition software got 20 times better at searching a database to find a matching photograph, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) evaluation of 127 software algorithms from 39 different developers—the bulk of the industry. The findings, together with other data in a NIST report published today, point to a rapidly advancing marketplace for face-based biometric matching algorithms.

The new publication, NIST Interagency Report (NISTIR) 8238, Ongoing Facial Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT), updates the agency’s previous evaluations of facial recognition software, 2010’s NISTIR 7709 and 2014’s NISTIR 8009. Comparing the reports indicates that the field of developers has grown and that, broadly speaking, facial recognition software is improving at an increasing rate.

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was founded in 1901 and is now part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NIST is one of the nation's oldest physical science laboratories. Congress established the agency to remove a major challenge to U.S. industrial competitiveness at the time—a second-rate measurement infrastructure that lagged behind the capabilities of the United Kingdom, Germany, and other economic rivals.

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