Not the land of smiles

One of the Names Thailand has is the land of smiles. To be greeted with a smile has a wonderful disarming effect that can help to take the edge off a bad day. But in other places in the world, it would seem that smiles are prohibited.

Now asking someone not to smile and they would first think you were a bit odd. After all a smile is simply a reflex action to something that is enjoyable. A smile also helps you in more ways than people know. For example, ask yourself who would you prefer to be around, a person who smiles or a person who is a miserable grump.

DCO Thailand

However in this case, apparently the world is such a miserable place, smiling is not natural and face identification software has not a clue how to process the data.

Four states adopt ‘no-smiles’ policy for driver’s licenses

Stopping driver’s license fraud is no laughing matter: Four states are ordering people to wipe the grins off their faces in their license photos.

“Neutral facial expressions” are required at departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) in Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia. That means you can’t smile, or smile very much. Other states may follow.

LICENSE FRAUD: States take steps to cut down fake IDs

The serious poses are urged by DMVs that have installed high-tech software that compares a new license photo with others that have already been shot. When a new photo seems to match an existing one, the software sends alarms that someone may be trying to assume another driver’s identity.

But there’s a wrinkle in the technology: a person’s grin. Face-recognition software can fail to match two photos of the same person if facial expressions differ in each photo, says Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor Takeo Kanade.

Dull expressions “make the comparison process more accurate,” says Karen Chappell, deputy commissioner of the Virginia DMV, whose no-smile policy took effect in March.

Elaine Mullen of Great Falls, Va., bristled at the policy while renewing her license until she heard the reasoning. “It’s probably safer from a national-security point of view,” she says.

Arkansas, Indiana and Nevada allow slight smiles. “You just can’t grin really large,” Arkansas driver services chief Tonie Shields says.

A total of 31 states do computerized matching of driver’s license photos and three others are considering it, says the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Most say their software matches faces regardless of expressions. “People can smile here in Pennsylvania,” state Transportation Department spokesman Craig Yetter says.

In Illinois, photo matching has stopped 6,000 people from getting fraudulent licenses since the technology was launched in 1999, says Beth Langen, the state head of Drivers Services.

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