Classifying Facial Action

Marian Stewart Bartlett, Paul A. Viola, Terrence J. Sejnowski, Beatrice A. Golomb, Jan Larsen, Joseph C. Hager, and Paul Ekman

Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 8, D. Touretzky, M. Mozer, and M. Hasselmo (Eds.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996. p. 823-829.


The Facial Action Coding System, (FACS), devised by Ekman and Friesen, provides an objective means for measuring the facial muscle contractions involved in a facial expression. In this paper, we approach automated facial expression analysis by detecting and classifying facial actions. We generated a database of over 1100 image sequences of 24 subjects performing over 150 distinct facial actions or action combinations. We compare three different approaches to classifying the facial actions in these images: Holistic spatial analysis based on principal components of graylevel images; explicit measurement of local image features such as wrinkles; and template matching with motion flow fields. On a dataset containing six individual actions and 20 subjects, these methods had 89%, 57%, and 85% performances respectively for generalization to novel subjects. When combined, performance improved to 92%.