SAN FRANCISCO – In the age of the coronavirus, face masks have become a part of normal life. They’re a safety requirement in many places, and for some people, a fashion statement. But for facial recognition technology, they pose a major challenge.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing face coverings to help fight the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus-caused sickness that’s killed more than 302,000 people around the world. And governments in more than half the US states are making masks mandatory in various public settings.

But don a mask and stare at your iPhone or Android device to unlock it, and you quickly see the problem for facial recognition.

Before the novel coronavirus hit, facial recognition providers were expecting to install their technology everywhere: in airports, casinos, restaurants and schools. Face masks threaten to change all that, but the industry is looking at the situation more as a speed bump than a roadblock.

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