Over the course of the last decade, infrared (IR) and particularly thermal IR imaging based face recognition has emerged as a promising complement to conventional, visible spectrum based approaches which continue to struggle when applied in practice. While inherently insensitive to visible spectrum illumination changes, IR data introduces specific challenges of its own, most notably sensitivity to factors which affect facial heat emission patterns, e.g. emotional state, ambient temperature, and alcohol intake. In addition, facial expression and pose changes are more difficult to correct in IR images because they are less rich in high frequency detail which is an important cue for fitting any deformable model. In this paper we describe a novel method which addresses these major challenges. Specifically, when comparing two thermal IR images of faces, we mutually normalize their poses and facial expressions by using an active appearance model (AAM) to generate synthetic images of the two faces with a neutral facial expression and in the same view (the average of the two input views). This is achieved by piecewise affine warping which follows AAM fitting. Ours is the first publication which explores the use of AAMs on IR images. A major contribution of our work is the use of an AAM ensemble in which each AAM is specialized to a particular range of poses and a particular region of the thermal IR face space. In addition, we show how AAM convergence problems associated with the lack of high frequency detail in thermal images can be overcome by a pre-processing stage which enhances discriminative information content. To overcome the problem of thermal IR image sensitivity to the exact pattern of facial temperature emissions we describe a representation based on reliable anatomical features. In contrast to previous approaches, our representation is not binary; rather, our method accounts for the reliability of the extracted features. This makes the proposed representation much more robust both to pose and scale changes. The effectiveness of the proposed approach is demonstrated on the largest public database of thermal IR images of faces and a newly acquired data set of thermal IR motion videos. Our approach achieved perfect recognition performance on both data sets, significantly outperforming the current state of the art methods even when they are trained with multiple images spanning a range of head views.
[ bib | .pdf ]