Snappy Face Recogniser

It sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Straight out of a science fiction movie in fact: the ability to lock down your computer so that only someone unfortunate enough to look exactly the same as you can access it.

But like all other such wonderfully exciting sounding access technologies, and we produce voice recognition and iris scanners as evidence, the reality is a lot more dull.

Sure, you’ll have endless fun teasing your other half or elderly parent into trying to log-on to their account after you’ve set this up for your ugly mug alone.

You might even manage to keep the unbridled enthusiasm going for an extra day or two if you don’t like football so have no other distractions to keep you occupied.

The truth is though, this is a gimmick, nothing less (and unfortunately nothing more either, which we’ll get to in a minute). Unlike fingerprint scanners, which are being built into laptops and PDAs and happen to have the advantage of being both reliable and intuitive, facial recognition at this level just doesn’t offer either.

In testing, we found that the faces of the reviewer and his entire family were apparently incompatible with facial recognition software: at least for about 25% of the time.

The fact that we are able to override the highly annoying "live" animated screensaver, of which you get a choice of three varieties of annoyance, with a simple password is a bit like rubbing salt into the wound.

What’s the point of such secret squirrel levels of security if they can be bypassed by anyone who knows the password?

Unfortunately, as we mentioned before, there’s not a lot more to this than the gimmicky face recognition angle.

As a standalone webcam, and despite the 1.3 megapixel resolution, it is distinctly average when compared to the market leading products from the likes of Logitech and Creative at a similar priced point.

We found it to be a poor performer in anything but a very brightly lit environment, and low light means that the facial recognition doesn’t of course.

The CMOS sensor just really didn’t appear to be up to the job, quite frankly. The still image size of 1280x1024 is OK, although the 640x480 pixels of the 30 frames per second video images was again just average. In its favour, the USB 2 device weighs only 120g and the folding lens design means it is a pocket friendly size of 80x40x18mm when closed.

The cost is anything but pocket friendly though, especially given that the webcam itself doesn’t feel that well put together. It looks and feels like a toy, courtesy of the strange metallic/plastic body with rough edged body seams that don’t inspire confidence in longevity.

Despite being manufactured by the same Singapore company, Digital Info Technology, that brought the altogether gorgeous and well made Nimzy, the Snappy is in a different league altogether.

Verdict

It’s not big, but it is kind of clever and it does kind of work. However, "kind of" isn’t good enough in the world of system security, and anyway – you really don’t need biometrics at home unless you have been a very naughty boy and have a lot of things to hide from Mrs Pocket-lint.

Unless you just can’t resist the gadget attraction, stick to using a secure password like your birthday instead.