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Gaming tech employs facial recognition to detect minors

According to a recent report, the world’s top-grossing games publisher will use facial recognition technology to detect minors amid tighter scrutiny by the Chinese government over concerns excessive video gaming is hurting public health.

The multinational company’s blockbuster mobile title, Honour of Kings, will be the first to test the technology, with some 1,000 new users in Beijing and Shenzhen (Hong Kong) selected to verify their identities through camera checks, the company said in a recent statement.

In mid-September, the multinational investment holding conglomerate found that almost half of the 600 game-playing minors and their parents who took part in its survey doubted facial-recognition checks in games, according to the statement. The company said it hoped to see how to use facial recognition and unearth problems through the scheme.

Last month, the company launched a system to verify the identities of Honour of Kings players by cross-referencing with public security databases. The company said it was the first time such data has been used by the gaming industry to screen users.

The company’s stricter controls over underage gamers come amid Beijing’s call to protect children’s health, with the government blaming the country’s widespread myopia on the playing of video games. Last week, the company added a feature to its popular video app that blurred the image if the viewer got too close. That followed a series of measures introduced last year to restrict play time for Honour of Kings’ young users after a top state newspaper criticised the game as “poison”.

It is unclear when the facial recognition checks will be available for Honour of Kings, which has 200 million users, or if and when the system will expand to cover the other titles under the company. A company spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on a public holiday in China.

The Honour of Kings was the highest-grossing mobile game of 2017 with US$1.9 billion in revenue, according to a research firm. Like the PC title League of Legends, the battle-arena game pits two teams of five against each other, with the first to demolish the other’s base the winner.

Shares in the company have plunged about 20 per cent this year after the Shenzhen-based company posted lower-than-expected gaming revenue in the most recent quarter.

That was in part blamed on a months-long freeze in game approvals, triggered by a government reshuffle started in March 2018.

Towards the end of last month, a report noted that the company added an eye protection function to videos after Beijing calls for action to prevent myopia in children.

The internet giant the eyesight protection feature for its video mobile app that blurs the image if the viewer is too close to the screen, a move is seen as a proactive response to the Chinese government’s nationwide myopia prevention campaign for minors.

This move to add the facial recognition feature will not only affect Chinese users, however. The hope that users in Hong Kong and all over the world will benefit from a safer gaming with healthier options as well.

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