Intel ditching controversial facial recognition features for its upcoming set-top box
Intel's been open about its plans to launch a connected set-top box for the living room since earlier this year, but one feature that raised some eyebrows won't be included when the product launches: a camera with facial recognition capabilities. The Wall Street Journal reports on Intel's latest plans, with Intel Media's Erik Huggers stating that the bundled camera has been dropped for the time being because it didn't perform well in low-light conditions and because of privacy concerns.
Erik Huggers, a Dutch-born former British Broadcasting Corp. executive, has assembled a 350-person team with talents beyond computer chips—programmers, industrial designers, artists and experts in fields like video encoding. Working in bright, newsroom-style offices that differ from standard Intel cubicles, they're creating an Internet-based service that doesn't only serve up on-demand programs but overhauls live TV as well.
Intel's plans include a server farm to record every piece of programming aired—local, national and international—and store it for at least three days in the "cloud." With an Intel-designed set-top box, people won't have to own DVRs or even plan to record programs.
Intel's Mr. Huggers, who spearheaded development of a popular BBC content app called iPlayer, sees advantages in starting from scratch. For one thing, his developers can exploit Intel technologies such as new chips for servers and set-top boxes, configuring them to call up programs and change channels noticeably faster that other living-room hardware.
One feature Intel has decided not to pursue for now is a camera equipped with facial recognition software to help personalize offerings for each user in a household. Mr. Huggers says the technology didn't work well enough in the low lighting common when watching TV and raised privacy questions.
Intel is testing its technology with 2,500 Intel employees in California, Oregon and Arizona. Documents that surfaced this month suggest Intel may call the service OnCue, though the company has declined to comment on that possibility.