Using the Microsoft Face API to detect emotions in photos and video

In a previous post, I blogged about detecting emotions with the ONNX FER+ model. As an alternative, you can use cloud models hosted by major cloud providers such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google. Besides those, there are many other services to choose from.

To detect facial emotions with Azure, there is a Face API in two flavours:

  • Cloud: API calls are sent to a cloud-hosted endpoint in the selected deployment region
  • Container: API calls are sent to a container that you deploy anywhere, including the edge (e.g. IoT Edge device)

To use the container version, you need to request access via this link. In another blog post, I already used the Text Analytics container to detect sentiment in a piece of text.

Note that the container version is not free and needs to be configured with an API key. The API key is obtained by deploying the Face API in the cloud. Doing so generates a primary and secondary key. Be aware that the Face API container, like the Text Analytics container, needs connectivity to the cloud to ensure proper billing. It cannot be used in completely offline scenarios. In short, no matter the flavour you use, you need to deploy the Face API. It will appear in the portal as shown below:

Deployed Face API (part of Cognitive Services)

Using the API is a simple matter. An image can be delivered to the API in two ways:

  • Link: just provide a URL to an image
  • Octet-stream: POST binary data (the image’s bytes) to the API

In the Go example you can find on GitHub, the second approach is used. You simply open the image file (e.g. a jpg or png) and pass the byte array to the endpoint. The endpoint is in the following form for emotion detection:

Instead of emotion, you can ask for other attributes or a combination of attributes: age, gender, headPose, smile, facialHair, glasses, emotion, hair, makeup, occlusion, accessories, blur, exposure and noise. You simply add them together with +’s (e.g. emotion+age+gender). When you add attributes, the cost per call will increase slightly as will the response time. With the additional attributes, the Face API is much more useful than the simple FER+ model. The Face API has several additional features such as storing and comparing faces. Check out the documentation for full details.

To detect emotion in a video, the sample at contains some commented out code in the import section and around line 100 so you can use the Face API via the package’s GetEmotion() function instead of the GetEmotion() function in the code. Because we have the full webcam image and face in an OpenCV mat, some extra code is needed to serialize it to a byte stream in a format the Face API understands:

encodedImage, _ := gocv.IMEncode(gocv.JPEGFileExt, face)       
emotion, err = msface.GetEmotion(bytes.NewReader(encodedImage))

In the above example, the face region detected by OpenCV is encoded to a JPG format as a byte slice. The byte slice is simply converted to an io.Reader and handed to the GetEmotion() function in the msface package.

When you use the Face API to detect emotions in a video stream from a webcam (or a video file), you will be hitting the API quite hard. You will surely need the standard tier of the API which allows you to do 10 transactions per second. To add face and emotion detection to video, the solution discussed in Detecting Emotions in FER+ is a better option.

Detecting emotions with FER+

In an earlier post, I discussed classifying images with the ResNet50v2 model. Azure Machine Learning Service was used to create a container image that used the ONNX ResNet50v2 model and the ONNX Runtime for scoring.

Continuing on that theme, I created a container image that uses the ONNX FER+ model that can detect emotions in an image. The container image also uses the ONNX Runtime for scoring.

You might wonder why you would want to detect emotions this way when there are many services available that can do this for you with a simple API call! You could use Microsoft’s Face API or Amazon’s Rekognition for example. While those services are easy to use and provide additional features, they do come at a cost. If all you need is basic detection of emotions, using this FER+ container is sufficient and cost effective.

Azure Face API (image from Microsoft website)

A notebook to create the image and deploy a container to Azure Container Instances (ACI) can be found here. The notebook uses the Azure Machine Learning SDK to register the model to an Azure Machine Learning workspace, build a container image from that model and deploy the container to ACI. The scoring script is shown below.

The model expects an 64×64 gray scale image of a face in an array with the following dimensions: [1][1][64][64]. The output is JSON with a results array that contains the probabilities for each emotion and a time field with the inference time.

The emotion probabilities are in this order:

0: "neutral", 1: "happy", 2: "surprise", 3: "sadness", 4: "anger", 5: "disgust", 6: "fear", 7: "contempt

To actually capture the emotions, I wrote a small demo program in Go that uses OpenCV (via GoCV). You can find it on GitHub: You will need to install OpenCV and GoCV. Find the instructions here: There are similar instructions for Mac and Windows but I have not tried those

The program is still a little rough around the edges but it does the trick. The scoring URI is hard coded to http://localhost:5002/score. With Docker installed, use the following command to install the scoring container:

 docker run -d -p 5002:5001 gbaeke/onnxferplus

Have fun with it!