Google is reportedly paying people $5 for five minutes of their time. Seems like a good deal right? That all depends on your perspective. The five minutes of time includes people being handed a smartphone that's tucked into a heavy case which covers essentially any defining details of the device, likely to obscure the true identity of it, and then those people are asked to use the selfie camera to scan their face. They have to sign a waiver.
In exchange for Google acquiring this facial data, it's giving people $5 gift cards to either Amazon or Starbucks, and perhaps an assortment of other retailers, according to ZDNet. Google employees are walking up to people on the street and asking them if they'd allow the company to scan their face.
Initially it seems that there was no mention of whether or not the data being captured or used is for the Pixel 4 specifically, but it was mentioned that the data will help to perfect the next generation of facial recognition phone unlocking. This is hot off the heels of Google's newly-released YouTube video for the Pixel 4 which confirms that it will include the Project Soli chip, which will power not only air gestures for controlling things like song skips, but face unlock as well.
Putting two and two together, Google is basically using the data it's capturing from random strangers to help get the facial recognition unlock on the Pixel 4 where it needs to be so it's as perfect as possible by the time the phone launches.
Google reportedly later confirmed that this is the reason they were asking people to allow the face scans and in turn receive the $5, stating that it's part of how Google will ensure the feature works with as many different face types as possible.
Google is no stranger to crowd-sourced data. Much of how the products and services that it offers are improved by gathering data from its users.
Google Play Rewards is a good example of this. It offers users Play Store credit in exchange for answering a few survey questions. Of course gathering answers through a survey and gathering people's facial recognition data are two completely different things, and it's an interesting take on ensuring that the Pixel 4's facial recognition unlock software is in working order.
While it might take large amounts of this type of data to help the feature work properly, Google is said to have employees in many different cities gathering this facial recognition data from a vast group of different people, though it hasn't mentioned any specific numbers in terms of how many employees are out in the field doing the research, or how many people they need or want to grab the data from.
The Pixel 4's launch isn't till later this year, so if hundreds of employees are out in many different cities on a daily basis getting as many people as they can to scan their face data, Google could have more than enough for what it needs to train the software to work with a diverse set of face types by the time the phone is released.