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Iris Recognition and Liveness Detection Competitions

There is a limited number of iris liveness detection challenges with LivDet Iris being the biggest event in that area

General Overview

Iris recognition, thought not a fully passive liveness detection system, became commercialized in 1999 when LG released the first iris scanner IrisAccess 2200 meant for broad usage. However, iris anti-spoofing issues were barely addressed at the time. In 2005, the first iris recognition challenge dubbed Iris Challenge Evaluation took place. However, the event focused on iris recognition while ignoring the threat of spoofing that was poorly explored at the time. ICB Competition was the next iris-related challenge occurring in 2013. It featured a large selection of environments, illumination conditions and noises that decrease iris recognition accuracy. A 'hostile' plays a significant role in types, countermeasures and challenges of facial anti-spoofing in general.

The same year LivDet-Iris 2013 competition was hosted. Organized by three institutions including Clarkson University, it had a goal of discovering a solution that was able to detect iris printouts and textured lenses — the typical spoofing attack tools used in real life. The challenge demonstrated that the suggested systems could detect only 88.7% of printed iris photos and 92.73% of textured lenses.

LG’s IrisAccess 2200 — the first commercial iris scanner
LG’s IrisAccess 2200 — the first commercial iris scanner

Due to the success of LivDet-Iris, it was hosted three more times in 2015, 2017 and 2020. A unique feature of the challenge is that it is divided into Two Parts for testing software and hardware solutions separately. The need for efficient iris anti-spoofing has rose significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic due to its contactless nature.

Iris Recognition Competitions

There are currently 11 primary challenges dedicated to iris anti-spoofing, with LivDet-Iris being the most significant one.


ICE or Iris Challenge Evaluation was a competition hosted by NIST in 2005-2006. It was the first challenge dedicated to iris recognition. It majorly focused on the correlation between left and right irises as a way to achieve a more accurate match and non-match similarity scores.

The ICE challenge emblem
The ICE challenge emblem

The ICE dataset contained 2,953 iris photos. The image quality offered a 480x640 resolution with the iris diameter exceeding 200 pixels. Interestingly, all images had to be assessed by the LG EOU 2200’s quality check in accordance with the facial anti-spoofing certification before they could be submitted to the dataset.

The challenge consisted of two stages:

  • Experiment 1 focusing on the right iris.
  • Experiment 2 focusing on the left iris.

Among the participants were Cambridge University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Iritech, and others. To calculate similarity score, Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROCs) were used during a verification task. Detailed challenge results can be found here.

Samples of left human iris in the ICE dataset used for iris recognition training
Left iris sample from the ICE dataset


NICE or Noisy Iris Challenge Evaluation was hosted in 2008-2009. The central goal was to develop a solution capable of removing noises that typically pollute iris images: specular reflection, physical/digital occlusions, camera distortion, etc.

NICE challenge emblem
NICE challenge emblem

The challenge dataset of 500 photos employed ocular images from UBIRIS.v2 — a more comprehensive database that features images shot in uncontrolled environments with accompanying visual noises. NICE focused on small target segmentation

The following error rate was used in the challenge:

\displaystyle{ \Epsilon_{j}={1 \over nwh}\sum_{i=1}^n\sum_{r=1}^h\sum_{c=1}^wP_{i}(r,c)\otimes G_{i}(r,c) }

  • \displaystyle{ \boldsymbol{n} }

    — test image number,
  • \displaystyle{ w }


    \displaystyle{ h }

    — width and height,
  • \displaystyle{ P_{i}(r,c) }

    — pixel intensity on row r and column c of the ith segmentation mask,
  • \displaystyle{ G_{i}(r,c) }

    — actual pixel value,
  • \displaystyle{ \otimes }

    — exclusive or-operator.

The UBIRIS.v2 database is still available on demand.

Samples of human iris with noises and occlusions in UBIRIS.v2 dataset used for iris recognition testing
An UBIRIS.v2 dataset sample featuring noises and occlusions


IREX or Iris Exchange is an initiative launched by NIST to evaluate performance of iris recognition solutions in compliance with two standards: ISO/IEC 19794-6 and ANSI/NIST ITL 1-2007 Type 17. Ten initiatives had been held as of today with IREX 10 being the ongoing one.

IREX initiative emblem
IREX initiative emblem

IREX VI has received a portion of criticism from E. Ortiz and K. Bowyer who mentioned that iris recognition may be handicapped by the aging process. However, IREX organizers discarded these insinuations, stating that criticism was based on misleading research data, as the mentioned iris size shrinking over three years "could have been realized in minutes via the same manipulation of the ambient illumination".


ICIR was a challenge hosted by ICB in 2013. It featured two primary datasets: CASIA-Iris-Thousand for training and IR-TestV1 for testing. The datasets offer 2,000 iris sample classes taken from 1,000 volunteers.

Human iris samples in different lightings taken from ICIR dataset
An ICIR dataset sample (from CASIA-Iris-Thousand)

The standard performance metrics used to assess the submitted algorithms included — False Non-match Rate (FNMR), False Match Rate (FMR), Equal Error Rate (EER) and Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC). Among them were DUT designed for iris localization, DUT with segmentation based on circular Hough transform, and others.ircular Hough transform, and others.

Equipment used for capturing iris images used in ICIR dataset
Equipment used for capturing iris images used in ICIR dataset


Mobile Iris Challenge Evaluation (MICHE) focused on iris recognition that could be orchestrated without specialized gear. For that purpose, a dataset of 3,732 iris images captured with mobile phones was collected. The contest consisted of two stages:

  • MICHE I dedicated to iris segmentation.
  • MICHE II testing the iris recognition.

The test results were evaluated with two metrics: Recognition Rate (RR) and Area Under the Curve (AUC). A number of algorithms were proposed. For instance, one of them employed Daugman’s rubber sheet model normalization and Hamming distance for separate matching of iris and the periocular region.

Elements of the periocular region
Elements of the periocular region


Competition on Mobile Iris Recognition (MIR) hosted by BTAS. Its goal was to enhance face liveness security for mobile gadgets via iris recognition supported with Near-Infrared (NIR) Illumination. Again, two datasets were proposed: MIR-Train and MIR-Test, the grayscale images for which were captured indoors and under NIR illumination.

Both datasets offer 16,500 photos collectively with a 1968x1024 resolution. The primary difficulty comes from occlusions such as eyeglasses, lighting variations, differing distances, defocus, etc. The classic False Match Rate (FMR) and False Non-Match Rate (FNMR) metrics were used along with Equal Error Rate (EER) and DI. The winning solution demonstrated FNMR4 = 2:24%, EER = 1:41% and DI = 3:33.


VISOB was a 2016 contest on mobile ocular biometrics recognition. For that purpose a special dataset of 158,136 images was created with three smartphones: iPhone 5S, Oppo N1 and Samsung Note 4. Volunteers were instructed to capture their irises under three lighting conditions: office light, daylight, and dim light at a varying distance of 8-12 inches.

The best solution employed periocular feature extraction with the Maximum Response (MR) filters from a set of 38 filters, plus a deep neural network learned with regularized stacked autoencoders. Noise removal was performed with Gaussian filter, histogram filter, and image resizing.

Samples from the VISOB dataset
Samples from the VISOB dataset

Iris Liveness Detection Competitions

Three challenges focus on iris liveness detection.

LivDet Iris

The biggest competition in that area, LivDet-Iris started in 2013. The latest challenge was in compliance with the ISO/IEC 30107-3 standard guidelines. As a result, it used the Attack Presentation Classification Error Rate (APCER) and Bonafide Presentation Classification Error Rate (BPCER). Additionally, Weighted Average of APCER and Average Classification Error Rate (ACER) were used.

LivDet Challenge emblem
LivDet Challenge emblem

It had no training dataset as participants were allowed to use any training data they could find. For the test phase a dataset was assembled consisting of 12,432 images: 5,331 real and 7,101 fake. The Presentation Attack instruments (PAIs) featured:

  • Printed eyes.
  • Cadaver eyes.
  • Textured lenses.
  • Prosthetic, toy and fake eyes.
  • Eye images replayed from Kindle e-Ink.

The winning solution scored a 29.78% ACER rate. It was based on a multilabel CNN network, which was specifically trained to spot textured contact lenses (SMobileNet) and printed images (FMobilNet). As a finishing touch, a multioutput classifier provided liveness detection.

LivDet-Iris '23 was hosted in March-May, sticking to the Presentation attack Detection metrics APCER and BPCER outlined in ISO/IEC 30107-3:2017.  The Presentation Attack Instruments (PAIs) included printed eyes, textured contact lenses, synthetic iris, and so on. The winning solutions were based on attention-based pixel-wise binary supervision network, DenseNet architecture, Contrast Limited Adaptive Histogram Equalization (CLAHE), fusion convolutional neural network, Swin Transformer with a multi-class linear classifier, etc. (See this report for more details.)

Presentation Attack Instruments used in LivDet-Iris 2020
Presentation Attack Instruments used in LivDet-Iris 2020


The MobILive contest was held in 2013-14 to provide effective active liveness recognition for mobile applications. It used such evaluation metrics as False Acceptance Rate (FAR), False Rejection Rate (FRR) and Mean Error Rate (MER). Plus, to estimate errors, additional metrics were used: False Real (FR), True Fake (TF), False Fake (FF), and True Real (TR).

Sample of real and fake eyes from the MobBIOfake dataset
Sample of real and fake eyes from the MobBIOfake dataset

APCER and Normal Presentation Classification Error Rate (NPCER) were also employed to comply with the ISO/IEC 30107 Presentation Attack Detection standard. One of the best solutions relied on local descriptors, such as Local Binary Pattern (LBP), which monitor statistical behavior occurring in small patches of the image.


Cross-Spectral Iris/Periocular Competition or Cross-Eyed was a 2016 contest timed with the 8th IEEE International Conference on Biometrics. It employed such metrics as Generalized False Accept Rate (GFAR) and Generalized False Reject Rate (GFFR) focusing on both iris and periocular areas.

Some optimistic results were returned by the transfer learning borrowed from face recognition and then adapted to periocular images. As for iris recognition, a promising method employs a CNN model with a bank of Pairwise filters. It helps to detect similarity between a pair of photos.


What are the main iris recognition competitions?

Several iris recognition competitions are hosted.

At least 11 imain iris recognition challenges are dedicated to iris recognition. The first competition of this kind, titled Iris Challenge Evaluation (ICE) was launched by the NIST in 2005. ICE explored correlation between left/right irises as a way to achieve higher accuracy.

Noisy Iris Challenge Evaluation (NICE) took place in 2008 focusing on the effective iris image denosing techniques — the measure would help solutions working in real-life environments.

Other challenges include Iris Exchange (IREX), Competition on Iris Recognition (ICIR), Mobile Iris Challenge Evaluation (MICE), etc. However, these challenges didn’t focus on antispoofing.


  1. History Iris ID
  2. Iris Challenge Evaluation by Wikipedia
  3. The First ICB Competition on Iris Recognition
  4. Liveness Detection-Iris Competition 2013
  5. Algorithm Performance Results
  6. LivDet competitions have been hosted since 2009
  7. The Iris Challenge Evaluation 2005
  8. Iris Challenge Evaluation
  9. ICE Documents & Presentations
  10. Noisy Iris Challenge Evaluation
  11. UBIRIS.v2
  12. Some samples of UBIRIS.v2 iris image database
  13. Iris Exchange (IREX) Overview
  14. ISO/IEC 19794-6
  15. American National Standard for Information Systems — Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint Facial, & Other Biometric Information – Part 1
  16. Iris Exchange (IREX) 10: Ongoing Evaluation of Iris Recognition
  17. IREX datasets
  18. Iris recognition: does template ageing really exist?
  19. A linear regression analysis of the effects of age related pupil dilation change in iris biometrics
  20. IREX VI: Mixed-effects Longitudinal Models for Iris Aging: Response to Bowyer and Ortiz
  21. Example images from the CASIA-Iris-Thousand dataset
  22. Circle Hough Transform by Wikipedia
  23. The First ICB∗ Competition on Iris Recognition
  24. Mobile Iris CHallenge Evaluation II (MICHE II)
  25. Elements of the periocular region
  26. The BTAS Competition on Mobile Iris Recognition
  27. Ocular Recognition Databases and Competitions: A Survey
  28. A special dataset
  29. Iris Liveness Detection Competition (LivDet-Iris) – The 2020 Edition
  30. MobILive 2014 - Mobile Iris Liveness Detection Competition
  31. ISO/IEC 30107 Presentation Attack Detection
  32. Cross-Eyed
  33. 8th IEEE International Conference on Biometrics
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