Fujitsu designs facial recognition to track workers’ concentration

10 Mar 2021

Image: © Fractal Images/

The company wants to deploy the tech in online meetings but it raises questions about the reach of surveillance in the remote working era.

Fujitsu has developed a facial recognition system that can detect how focused someone is in online classes and meetings.

According to Fujitsu, the AI model detects small changes in muscle movements in a person’s facial expression. These movements reportedly correspond with how much the person is concentrating on the task at hand.

Existing AI, the company said, often focuses on training algorithms to recognise a general set of expressions but this does not account for people’s differing facial movements and behaviours or what the task being carried out is. This means systems need to be tweaked from task to task.

Fujitsu said its system can be applied to any task. The new AI product detects ‘action units’, with each unit corresponding to muscles in the face, to detect whether someone is concentrating or not, and tracks changes every few seconds.

Some of these changes including a tense mouth or how intently someone is staring. The company claims it has an accuracy rate of 85pc after a study of data from 650 people in the US, China, and Japan.

The Japanese multinational said that it would seek to deploy the tech in online settings such as classes, meetings and in sales.

“[We] will further promote the rigorous verification of such technologies from the perspective of AI ethics, with the aim of realising the practical use of trustworthy AI technologies,” it said.

While the ‘action unit detection technology’ is a technological advancement for Fujitsu, it will raise questions around the reach of facial recognition and employee surveillance during and after the pandemic.

Since the mass shift to remote working one year ago, the sector for tech that tracks workers’ productivity and concentration has come into the spotlight.

Last year, PwC came under fire for a facial recognition tool that monitored home workers and how long they were spending in front of their computer screens. Nasdaq-listed software firm Concentrix produced a new suite of products that uses biometric authentication to monitor employees.

In October, a union in the UK warned employers against installing surveillance tech to track remote workers’ activities. It said there are “precious few controls in place to prevent it becoming a daily reality for millions”.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin