The software, which is a result of 20 years of research by scientists at the University of Manchester, is believed to be unrivalled for speed and accuracy and could lead to facial recognition replacing passwords to log into Internet sites from a mobile phone.
"Existing mobile face trackers give only an approximate position and scale of the face," said Dr Phil Tresadern, lead researcher on the project.
"Our model runs in real-time and accurately tracks a number of landmarks on and around the face such as the eyes, nose, mouth and jaw line." According to the university, the software that can run in any smartphone with a camera on the frontside takes a video of the user's face and tracks 22 facial features.
"This can make face recognition more accurate, and has great potential for novel ways of interacting with your phone," said Dr Tresadern. The software was developed as part of a face and voice recognition system for access to mobile Internet applications like email, social networking and online banking. Alternative uses for the device could include fun applications that, for instance, attach virtual objects to the user's face as they move around, the researchers said.
"At this stage, we are interested in demonstrating uses for the face-tracking part of the technology, which is the area The University of Manchester is involved in," said Dr Tresadern.
"It is very fast and I can't find anything that can rival it on a mobile phone." Face verification is already used in laptops, webcams and the Xbox 360 Kinect, but this is the first time the technology is being used with such sophistication in mobile devices such as smartphones, according to the scientists.
The new software has been demonstrated on a Nokia N900 for the EU-funded "Mobile Biometrics" project.