Talking specs for the forgetful

Talking spectacles for people who can't put names to faces have been developed by researchers supported by British Telecom.

The problem of being faced with someone you recognise but can't put a name to has been solved with intelligent glasses.

When confronted with a familiar but nameless face, the spectacles will automatically print the name as a caption above their head that only you see, or whisper it into an ear.

The research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have already produced prototypes and are now working on shrinking the technology.

Program the computer with the images of the faces of hundreds of co- workers, and even junior staff will know who everyone is immediately.

When a micro camera on the spectacles sees a face, it matches it to a name and projects that name onto the surface of the spectacles.

"We have developed a system for recognising faces, expressions, hand movements, that kind of thing," said Dr Alex Pentland of the MIT Media Lab. "We program a computer with the information and it matches it with names.

"There are all sorts of applications we are working on using this development. BT, for instance, are interested in virtual reality tele-conferencing.

"The same kind of recognition systems can be used to produce televisions that know when people are watching them, and credit cards which can recognise their owners."

The MIT researchers are using the same kind of technology in a project with Nissan. The aim here is for computers in cars to predict changes in the expressions of drivers which mean they are tired or otherwise unable to drive safely.