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A man famous in China for his superhuman memory beat an AI in a facial recognition contest

By Siyi Chen
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

At a competition in China to see who is better at recognizing faces, man or machine, Wang Yuheng, representing the humans, emerged victorious.

Wang is famous in China for his photographic memory. He successfully identified a specific glass of water out of 520 seemingly identical ones in a Chinese reality TV show. He also reportedly helped police crack a case by extracting “hidden clues” from surveillance camera footage, thanks to his exceptional observational skills.

But Wang’s competitor, “Mark,” is no less smart.  ”Mark” is the facial recognition AI for Alipay, China’s largest digital payment service. Mark’s developer, a company called Megvii, claims that the success rate of its facial recognition technology has reached 99.50%, surpassing human performance.

But after drawing level with Wang in the first two rounds of the competition, Mark finally lost in the third round, in which each competitor was required to match women with their childhood photo. 

The developers say they’re still working to improve Mark. But one thing is for sure: Mark and his ilk have a bright future ahead of them. By at least one estimate, the global market for facial recognition technology will reach $20 billion by 2025.

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