Can facial recognition software differentiate between identical twins? © Getty Images

Can facial recognition software differentiate between identical twins?

Computers are pretty adept at recognising your face these days, but is it double trouble when it comes to twins?

Asked by: Steve Tayler, Coventry


Identical twins are a particularly stringent stress test for facial recognition systems. So when Windows 10 launched, some wondered whether twins could fool Windows Hello, the authentication feature that uses facial and iris recognition. An Australian newspaper tested it with six pairs of identical twins. Though hardly a scientific sample, the system did pass the test. This suggested that biometrics technology for consumers is clearing some big hurdles.

When it comes to identifying faces, humans are better at subjective judgments like whether someone looks happy, sad, angry or just a bit shifty. But computers beat us on the quantitative side of things such as measuring the relative dimensions of the features on a face. Windows Hello is built on Intel technology that combines a webcam, infrared camera and infrared laser projector. This three-pronged approach shores up the system’s rigidity, even when confronted with identical twins.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.