New AR Facial-Recognition App Could Help You Remember Faces You’ve Forgotten

Have you ever been in a situation where you see someone while shopping in a store or while out to dinner, and they come up and start talking to you like they know you but you just can’t place the face? SocialRecall is developing a new app that uses facial-recognition technology and will help people remember the person they are talking to if they find themselves in a situation where they just can’t remember.

SocialRecall App

This is a real medical condition that people suffer from, although it is rare. Called prosopagnosia, it’s a disease that affects 2.5 percent of the population. It’s a neurological condition where people who are affected by it can’t recognize people they have met before. This isn’t limited to mere acquaintances. This could be people they have known for years.

Harvard neuroscience Ph.D. Barry Sandrew created the SocialRecall startup that is working on an app that will use facial-recognition technology to help people who suffer with prosopagnosia or even people who struggle with something similar but don’t have the disease, yet still have a difficult time placing faces.

“It breaks down the wall between people and allows them to interact without the customary formal introduction,” Sandrew told Digital Trends. “No need to ask any questions You know them already. If you remember the old comedy sitcom ‘Cheers,’ the neighborhood bar where everybody knows your name? Well, this app creates a Cheers-type atmosphere at the stuffiest of parties and gatherings.”


Sandrew explains that a smartphone camera is used but that it doesn’t take pictures. “It merely sees a face, searches the database, and shows a person’s information, along with their company name.”

The thought is that this app can be used by event planners to create events where the people who attend need to first sign in via social media. The app will then link people to their profile pages during the event using the facial recognition technology and the cameras.

Other Applications

Sandrew suggests other applications of this technology than just with smartphone cameras at a social gathering. He sees a use for it with AR glasses once they become more mainstream.

“Once there are augmented reality smartglasses, the application will really become empowering to people who are shy or who are uncomfortable in social situations,” he explains.

In other words, while it sounds like the smartglasses would be used all day long so that you could recognize anyone you are having a difficult time identifying, that’s not the case, and it’s because of privacy issues.


Sandrew recognizes the difficulty with privacy issues, so his intention is for the technology to only be used during events, whether it be with a smartphone camera or with smartglasses. So this will take care of the situation when you’re in organized events that are employing this technology, but what would you do when you’re at the store or out to dinner and see someone that you should know but don’t?


While it’s a bit disappointing to know that SocialRecall’s technology would only help during organized events when privacy isn’t a concern, at least we know the technology exists.

Hopefully, at some point there will be a way to address the privacy issues so that this technology can be employed at all times to really help people who suffer with prosopagnosia or just have a problem in general matching up names and faces.

What do you think of this technology? Do you see a way where it could be used without having the worry about privacy concerns? Add your thoughts and concerns in our comments section at the bottom of the page.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.


  1. “so his intention is for the technology to only be used during events”
    As the saying goes “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” How does the good doctor propose to limit the use of this technology to “only during events”? And hoe does he p[propose to enforce such a limitation? Once this technology gets out into the wild, it will be used 24/7/365.

    “What do you think of this technology?”
    The technology is great and it can be very helpful if and when used as designed and intended. However, right after new tech hits the market, it is weaponized and/or subverted for nefarious use.

    “Do you see a way where it could be used without having the worry about privacy concerns?”
    NO WAY, NO HOW! Governments will use it to track people’s movements in a Person of Interest-type scenario. Malls and retail companies will use it to track their customers. In practice, this technology will be another nail in the coffin of privacy.

  2. I immediately thought of document servers, finding people in crowds and at events. Even scarier are doxxer’s who would use this technology to harass people. I definitely see law enforcement and bounty hunter applications. The creepy factor in the dating scene (finding out info about people before you approach (ala, Bill Murray in Ground Hogs Day).
    The most dangerous app is paring this up with GPS. You can now more easily definitively document where someone was at a given time. Of course, the biggest problem is mistaken identity. We already know that facial recognition programmers haven’t normed their systems on people of color (thus get more misses than hits). This could lead to some major issues especially if law enforcement was involved.

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