Facial recognition is used with two very distinct meanings. One is to take photographic information and identify a person, the other is to find the presence of faces; for example a camera trying to find faces to put them into focus, or for a vending machine to find that there is a customer.

What are good words to use in either case to make it very clear what is meant? For example does “face detection” clearly say that something recognises the presence of faces, but not their identity?

There is another situation where for security reasons, something recognises that a face belongs to me, or not to me, with no ability to recognise other faces beyond saying they are “not me”. What would be a good word for that? Face identification?

(A useful answer would be words that the average person would understand and interpret correctly).

  • Out of curiosity why would facial recognition be useful to a vending machine? OFF TOPIC: If a machine records my physicality what guarantee would people have that the information would not be sold to competitors and ilk?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 26 at 11:09
  • We will catch the bank robbers. Check all the closed circuit cameras and the vending machines.
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 26 at 11:52
  • You might get better answers in a site specific to the community that uses the expected terms, namely artificial intelligence. If that community doesn't have such differentiating terms then maybe context is enough for them. But without that, you can easily use the words you yourself used to deparate them, location or presence vs identification.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 26 at 14:27
  • AWS has a good overview of the subject: 'What is facial recognition? A face analyzer: software that identifies or confirms a person's identity using their face. It works by identifying and measuring facial features in an image. Facial recognition can identify human faces in images or videos, determine if the face in two images belongs to the same person, or search for a face among a large collection of existing images.' ... I'd just use 'identify a shape as a human face' // 'establish a person's identity using facial recognition software'. Commented Feb 26 at 16:28
  • Might the problem be that the exposition is by no means as clear as you thought? Might it be that your two uses of FR do not have 'very distinct meanings' but often overlap? Of course a vending machine would need to find that there was a customer and how could that mean a camera needed to put faces into focus? Commented Mar 12 at 22:32

2 Answers 2


I would go with artificial facial recognition to make clear it is a machine, since the term facial recognition can be used of people as well.

Some people are very good at facial recognition while others have difficulty.

You are correct to think that facial detection refers to identifying the shape as a human face, distinguishing it from other vaguely facelike shapes.

For recognizing whether a face is, or is not, a face whose image is stored, I'd use face validation analogous to password validation.


Face scan

to look at something carefully, with the eyes or with a machine, in order to get information:

Cambridge Dictionary

  • 3
    That doesn’t distinguish the very different cases at all.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 27 at 17:48

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