Face detection has been possible for some time on iOS thanks to libraries like OpenCV.  The CIDetector class introduced in iOS 5 made it a standard feature.  Since iOS 7 it can also detect smiles and eye blinks Smile

With iOS 6, AV Foundation gained AVCaptureMetadataOutput, allowing face detection to be included in the capture pipeline (in iOS 7 it also supports barcode scanning).

Here’s how you could use that to perform face masking on live video:


First thing to do is get the capture session set up:

	AVCaptureSession *captureSession = [AVCaptureSession new];
	[captureSession beginConfiguration];
	NSError *error;
	// Input device
	AVCaptureDevice *captureDevice = [self frontOrDefaultCamera];
	AVCaptureDeviceInput *deviceInput = [AVCaptureDeviceInput deviceInputWithDevice:captureDevice error:&error];
	if ( [captureSession canAddInput:deviceInput] )
		[captureSession addInput:deviceInput];
	if ( [captureSession canSetSessionPreset:AVCaptureSessionPresetHigh] )
		captureSession.sessionPreset = AVCaptureSessionPresetHigh;
	// Video data output
	AVCaptureVideoDataOutput *videoDataOutput = [self createVideoDataOutput];
	if ( [captureSession canAddOutput:videoDataOutput] )
		[captureSession addOutput:videoDataOutput];
		AVCaptureConnection *connection = videoDataOutput.connections[ 0 ];
		connection.videoOrientation = AVCaptureVideoOrientationPortrait;
	// Metadata output
	AVCaptureMetadataOutput *metadataOutput = [self createMetadataOutput];
	if ( [captureSession canAddOutput:metadataOutput] )
		[captureSession addOutput:metadataOutput];
		metadataOutput.metadataObjectTypes = [self metadataOutput:metadataOutput allowedObjectTypes:self.faceMetadataObjectTypes];
	// Done
	[captureSession commitConfiguration];
	dispatch_async( _serialQueue,
					   [captureSession startRunning];
	_captureSession = captureSession;

All we’re doing here is creating an AVCaptureSesstion, adding an input device, adding an AVCaptureVideoDataOutput (so we can work with the frame buffer) and an AVCaptureMetadataOutput (to tell us about faces in the frame).

A few helper methods called during the setup:

- (AVCaptureMetadataOutput *)createMetadataOutput
	AVCaptureMetadataOutput *metadataOutput = [AVCaptureMetadataOutput new];
	[metadataOutput setMetadataObjectsDelegate:self queue:_serialQueue];
	return metadataOutput;
- (NSArray *)metadataOutput:(AVCaptureMetadataOutput *)metadataOutput
		 allowedObjectTypes:(NSArray *)objectTypes
	NSSet *available = [NSSet setWithArray:metadataOutput.availableMetadataObjectTypes];
	[available intersectsSet:[NSSet setWithArray:objectTypes]];
	return [available allObjects];
- (NSArray *)faceMetadataObjectTypes
	return @
- (AVCaptureVideoDataOutput *)createVideoDataOutput
	AVCaptureVideoDataOutput *videoDataOutput = [AVCaptureVideoDataOutput new];
	[videoDataOutput setSampleBufferDelegate:self queue:_serialQueue];
	return videoDataOutput;

- (AVCaptureDevice *)frontOrDefaultCamera
	NSArray *devices = [AVCaptureDevice devicesWithMediaType:AVMediaTypeVideo];
	for ( AVCaptureDevice *device in devices )
		if ( device.position == AVCaptureDevicePositionFront )
			return device;
	return [AVCaptureDevice defaultDeviceWithMediaType:AVMediaTypeVideo];

We’ve told AVCaptureMetadataOutput and AVCaptureVideoDataOutput to call us back (when we set “self” as the delegate) and to do it on a global queue called _serialQueue.  This is just to avoid any concurrency issues if the delegates are called from separate threads.  Here’s how we handle new metadata:

- (void)captureOutput:(AVCaptureOutput *)captureOutput didOutputMetadataObjects:(NSArray *)metadataObjects fromConnection:(AVCaptureConnection *)connection
	_facesMetadata = metadataObjects;

Once we get a video frame, we’ll make a CIImage, mask the face with a CIFilter, then render the frame to an OpenGL ES 2.0 context:

- (void)captureOutput:(AVCaptureOutput *)captureOutput didOutputSampleBuffer:(CMSampleBufferRef)sampleBuffer fromConnection:(AVCaptureConnection *)connection
	CVPixelBufferRef pixelBuffer = CMSampleBufferGetImageBuffer( sampleBuffer );
	if ( pixelBuffer )
		CFDictionaryRef attachments = CMCopyDictionaryOfAttachments( kCFAllocatorDefault, sampleBuffer, kCMAttachmentMode_ShouldPropagate );
		CIImage *ciImage = [[CIImage alloc] initWithCVPixelBuffer:pixelBuffer options:(__bridge NSDictionary *)attachments];
		if ( attachments ) CFRelease( attachments );
		CGRect extent = ciImage.extent;
		_filter.inputImage = ciImage;
		_filter.inputFacesMetadata = _facesMetadata;
		CIImage *output = _filter.outputImage;
		_filter.inputImage = nil;
		_filter.inputFacesMetadata = nil;
		dispatch_async( dispatch_get_main_queue(),
						   UIView *view = self.view;
						   CGRect bounds = view.bounds;
						   CGFloat scale = view.contentScaleFactor;
						   CGFloat extentFitWidth = extent.size.height / ( bounds.size.height / bounds.size.width );
						   CGRect extentFit = CGRectMake( ( extent.size.width - extentFitWidth ) / 2, 0, extentFitWidth, extent.size.height );
						   CGRect scaledBounds = CGRectMake( bounds.origin.x * scale, bounds.origin.y * scale, bounds.size.width * scale, bounds.size.height * scale );
						   [_ciContext drawImage:output inRect:scaledBounds fromRect:extentFit];
						   [_eaglContext presentRenderbuffer:GL_RENDERBUFFER];
						   [(GLKView *)self.view display];

The _filter is an instance of CJCAnonymousFacesFilter. It’s a simple CIFilter that creates a mask from the faces metadata and a pixelated version of the image, then blends the result into the original image:

	// Create a pixellated version of the image
	[self.anonymize setValue:inputImage forKey:kCIInputImageKey];
	CIImage *maskImage = self.maskImage;
	CIImage *outputImage = nil;
	if ( maskImage )
		// Blend the pixellated image, mask and original image
		[self.blend setValue:_anonymize.outputImage forKey:kCIInputImageKey];
		[_blend setValue:inputImage forKey:kCIInputBackgroundImageKey];
		[_blend setValue:self.maskImage forKey:kCIInputMaskImageKey];
		outputImage = _blend.outputImage;
		[_blend setValue:nil forKey:kCIInputImageKey];
		[_blend setValue:nil forKey:kCIInputBackgroundImageKey];
		[_blend setValue:nil forKey:kCIInputMaskImageKey];
		outputImage = _anonymize.outputImage;
	[_anonymize setValue:nil forKey:kCIInputImageKey];

You can find all the relevant code as gists on github: