China begins using software to identify people by the way they walk

A Chinese technology start-up has begun selling software that recognises people by their body shape and how they walk, enabling identification when faces are hidden from cameras.

Already used on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai, “gait recognition” is part of a push to develop artificial-intelligence and data-driven surveillance across China.

A Watrix employee walks around to enable their firm’s gait recognition software to recognise his stride (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

Huang Yongzhen, the chief executive of Watrix, said its system can identify people from up to 50 metres away, even with their backs turned or faces covered.

This can fill a gap in facial recognition, which needs close-up, high-resolution views of a person’s face to work.

A screen displays a computer-generated image of a Watrix employee (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

Chinese police also use facial recognition to identify people in crowds and arrest errant pedestrians but some have criticised what they perceive to be a surveillance culture.

- Press Association

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