A realistic approach to generate masked faces applied on two novel masked face recognition data sets

Part of Proceedings of the Neural Information Processing Systems Track on Datasets and Benchmarks 1 (NeurIPS Datasets and Benchmarks 2021)

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Tudor-Alexandru Mare, Georgian Duta, Iuliana Georgescu, Adrian Sandru, Bogdan Alexe, Marius Popescu, Radu Tudor Ionescu


The COVID-19 pandemic raises the problem of adapting face recognition systems to the new reality, where people may wear surgical masks to cover their noses and mouths. Traditional data sets (e.g., CelebA, CASIA-WebFace) used for training these systems were released before the pandemic, so they now seem unsuited due to the lack of examples of people wearing masks. We propose a method for enhancing data sets containing faces without masks by creating synthetic masks and overlaying them on faces in the original images. Our method relies on SparkAR Studio, a developer program made by Facebook that is used to create Instagram face filters. In our approach, we use 9 masks of different colors, shapes and fabrics. We employ our method to generate a number of 445,446 (90%) samples of masks for the CASIA-WebFace data set and 196,254 (96.8%) masks for the CelebA data set, releasing the mask images at https://github.com/securifai/masked_faces. We show that our method produces significantly more realistic training examples of masks overlaid on faces by asking volunteers to qualitatively compare it to other methods or data sets designed for the same task. We also demonstrate the usefulness of our method by evaluating state-of-the-art face recognition systems (FaceNet, VGG-face, ArcFace) trained on our enhanced data sets and showing that they outperform equivalent systems trained on original data sets (containing faces without masks) or competing data sets (containing masks generated by related methods), when the test benchmarks contain masked faces.