One of the great pleasures of living in the 21st century is seeing yesterday’s science fiction become today’s reality.  Most of us are familiar with Superman’s many super powers, such as his speed and strength (perhaps his ability to continue generating blockbuster movies more than seventy years after his comic-strip birth should also be added to the list).  But there is one superpower that I want to focus on, and that is Superman’s famous x-ray vision.

Most kids of the 20th century wanted less supervision and more super vision, enabling them to see great distances and through barriers.  Even Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar man of the ‘70s, had telescopic vision, which I remember thinking was cool.  As it turns out, a form of super vision is becoming reality today in a way that would have amazed even Superman’s creators, and it is enabling everything from reading faces to verifying if someone is who they claim to be.

Of course, we don’t use the term “super vision” today, but instead “computer vision”, or CV, which is a technology that tries to mimic the characteristics of human vision.   In some cases, human sight is more powerful; however in other cases, the reverse is true, and this field is generating new breakthroughs that only a few years ago would have seemed impossible.  I want to share two of those breakthroughs with you – one from Google, and the other from Mitek. 

I was fascinated to watch this video from a Google CV engineer, where he showed how minute changes in facial color – impossible for you and I to detect – could be magnified and used to assess pulse rate.  Even more amazing than the many great healthcare implications of this, and perhaps more spooky, is the ability to focus a camera on a discarded bag of potato chips and, by analyzing the tiny movements associated with the sound waves, pick up the details from a nearby conversation.  Just think:  some day, when you think you’re having a private conversation, a camera might be trained on a nearby glass of water and “listening” to what you say.

The second breakthrough, from Mitek, is (thankfully) less spooky:  Verifying document authenticity in the mobile channel.  Here’s how it works.

Right now, there are many companies in regulated industries (think banks, insurance companies, payment companies, etc) that are inundated with new customers who want to sign up and transact via the mobile channel only.  These companies are on the hook for fraud and related losses, but how do they create a gate that’s strong enough to stop the bad customers, but allows good customers to pass through?

The answer leverages CV, and was revealed last week by Mitek.  At a high level, customers are asked to take a picture of their ID (State ID or Drivers License) and Mitek, using proprietary CV technology will verify the presence of an invisible security feature on the ID. When such security feature is detected, Mitek provides 100% confidence that the document is authentic.  

Yes Superman, you heard that right: the mobile camera will detect something that is completely invisible to the naked eye (even a naked eye with a blacklight).

The impact is that financial services and payment companies can say yes to more good customers, which is frankly tough to do when you’re squeezed between the need for growth on one end and voluminous regulations on the other.

For more information on Photo Verify, go here.  It will fundamentally change how financial services companies meet and greet prospective customers in the mobile channel.

The CV train will continue to run in a number of different ways.  Innovative companies like Google and Mitek will continue to move the field forward, hopefully for the benefit of all.  I can’t speak for Google, but I know that we at Mitek see a number of new ways we can apply this technology to make life better for good customers and their financial providers. 

The future is going to be interesting, and you don’t need special super vision powers to see that.

About the Author:

Michael Diamond is the Chief Revenue Officer at Mitek.  Mike has been in the financial services technology space for over 15 years, where he has been a frequent writer and industry presenter.  When he’s not working at Mitek, he writes about innovation, leadership, and personal effectiveness in his personal blog at

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