Recognix FaceCode review

Price when reviewed

One day, biometrics could be a part of everyday life. With so many logins and passwords required for everything from chat forums to bank accounts, the average PC user is drowning in security details. Instead of having to remember deliberately obscure alphanumerical strings, biometrics offers the option of tying security to something you’ll never forget – your finger, your eye or your face.

Recognix FaceCode review

So far, however, biometrics has remained the domain of the corporate user. Fingerprint readers have been included in premium iPAQ PDAs and IBM ThinkPads but aimed at security-conscious businesses. Recognix hopes to change all that and bring biometrics to the masses. With a copy of FaceCode and any webcam capable of 352 x 288 in RGB_24 format or better, the company claims you can add facial-recognition security to any Windows 2000 or XP PC.

FaceCode is currently a download-only product. You can try out a 14-day evaluation version, after which a permanent keycode is a relatively inexpensive $30. When you first load the software, it goes through a video-capture device detection wizard. We tried a few options, including camcorders attached via FireWire and USB. None of these were passed as compatible by FaceCode, but when we called upon a Philips SPC300NC/00 USB webcam, we were in business. Most current webcams support the required resolution and capture format, so should work with the software.

Once FaceCode has configured itself with your webcam, the next step is to add the administrator’s face to the database. You can theoretically enrol an unlimited number of users, but each one must be linked to a pre-existing Windows account: you can’t add an entirely new user within FaceCode. After filling in the correct text password for your chosen administrator username, you’re led through facial enrolment. This takes eight mugshots and performs some algorithmic analysis of them. You then choose to exclude any aberrant images – for example, if you looked away momentarily. Once you’ve enrolled your first user, you’ll need to reboot to enable FaceCode Windows login. This can either work on its own or you can specify to add the Windows username and password for extra levels of security.

However, this is where our problems began. After rebooting, the FaceCode login crashed with a Visual C++ error, and we could only get into the PC after disconnecting the webcam. Fortunately, FaceCode has a hot-key system for just such a problem, where you choose a secret combination to recall the standard Windows username and password login. This is reassuring, but of course reduces the security of the system, as anyone who knows the combination can avoid the facial-recognition system entirely.

We discovered that our problem was because this version of FaceCode isn’t compatible with PCs connected to a Windows network. This also meant we couldn’t add any more users after the administrator on our test PC. So we installed the software and webcam on a non-networked PC instead and found facial login worked fine, as did enrolling new users.

However, a forthcoming Pro version will support network PCs. Slated to be available in two months’ time for around $40, FaceCode Pro will also add a host of new features. Protect Application Launch and File/Folder Protection functions will allow you to facially control access to these resources on an individual basis. You’ll also be able to back up and restore your enrolled face database. Best of all, it will include a Password Bank for storing all your online logins under one face. A standalone version of the Password Bank will also be available for $20.

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