Where Sci-Fi Meets Meetings: Welcome to the World of Facial-Recognition Technology

Get ready––the latest blockbuster flick is coming to a meeting near you

In a semi-ancient Star Trek episode, an evildoer (part of the Dominion, as Trekkies will probably recall) donned a headset with a single eyeglass that allowed him to see outside of the ship (or anywhere he wanted, really) with a turn of his head. Remind you of anything in particular? If Google Glass came to mind, you’re not alone. In fact, the creator dubbed the television show a focal point of inspiration for his invention, which allows wearers to quickly project outside visuals into pair of spectacles. 

Sci-Fi-inspired technology infiltrating real life is nothing new. The day-to-day of the meetings industry may seem a little less cinematic, but there is at least one blockbuster-worthy innovation that has the potential to transform your job: facial-recognition technology. 

Designated by MIT Technology Review as one of the top 10 technologies to watch this year, facial-recognition technology uses computers to verify a person’s identity through a picture or video. Although it’s been around for a while, the innovation is becoming more mainstream by the minute, seeping into industries that might not have otherwise used it even a year ago. Here, we outline three of those instances––and what it means for the event planning industry. 

(Almost) Instantaneous Check-In

Facial recognition for check-in or baggage check is being tested by some airlines, with passengers stepping up to kiosks as cameras compare their faces to passport photo inventories. The tool is making headway in the event space, too, most notably for large-scale concerts

For event planners, checking in guests is one of the lengthier, more hands-on processes associated with meetings. And while digital check-in is certainly expediting things, imagine yielding a piece of technology that can do all the work in a fraction of the time. This year, the Houston-based company Zenus launched software that lets attendees use their faces in lieu of tickets for event entry. The biggest bonus is undoubtedly quicker check-in, but the added security and fraud prevention help, too. 

Social Media Exposure

Although it might seem slightly unnerving when Facebook prompts you to tag friends in photos before you’ve had the chance to identify them, it’s hard to argue with the tool’s ability to connect acquaintances and even strangers. And when it comes to marketing your event, both during and after, facial-recognition technology through social media can help your message reach a broader audience and circles outside your own––all through the power of networking. Of course, since the technology is rooted in reality, rather than the future, be sure to get your attendees’ permission before posting and tagging them in event-related photos. 

Post-Event Reception

From boredom to excitement to confidence, Clever Carly has already talked about how facial expressions and body language weave a particularly truthful tale about our emotional state. Although you’re undoubtedly a pro at reading body language after taking Carly’s quiz, it can be a bit more challenging when you’re tasked with reading dozens, even hundreds, of faces and bodies at once. 

Enter (you guessed it) facial-recognition technology for reading expressions. Last year, the media agency MediaCom unrolled its version of “emotional analytics,” which uses facial-recognition technology to scan the emotional impact of a particular event. 

While it’s an isolated case, the notion of doing away with traditional event feedback forms, even e-versions, could be revolutionary for assessing and improving meetings in real-time versus waiting weeks for feedback from a fraction of the guest list. What’s more, the technology would capture inherently honest feedback without bias. 

Naturally, not all emerging event technologies, whether for check-in, social media or feedback purposes, will be right for your event. Be sure to consult with colleagues and expert sources before investing in one.