Sunday, 15 October 2017

Prominent Technology Turns Cameras Into Intelligent Sensors

It’s generally a good rule of thumb: once you step outside your house, you are being recorded on some camera, somewhere. But emerging technology is trying to turn cameras into intelligent sensors, ones that will be record you and as well know more about you than you do yourself.
This means tools like cameras set up in vehicles that can sense when the driver looks away or gets distracted, and sends a warning through a vibrating seat to get attention back to where it needs to be. Or how about a toy that can tell when a child smiles, and it smiles back?
Experts say that is soon to come, starting with technology like Cara, a facial detection software program that turns any old web cam into a face detection system. IMRSV, the New York City-based company that just launched the program, says Cara uses algorithms to scan dozens of faces up to 25 feet away, and determine gender and age with up to 93 percent accuracy.
Reebok one of Cara's first customers. It has set up Cara on its shoe wall in the 5th Avenue store in New York City, gauging who’s sticking around and what is grabbing their attention. Data including gender, approximate age, how long the person’s been staring at something are all sent immediately to a dashboard. If it helps with marketing, a Reebok spokesperson said the company may adopt Cara in stores worldwide to put out the best ads possible.
“What it can do is actually switch up the ad that’s playing based on the gender of who’s walking in front of it,” said Tim McAtee, who works at IPG Media Lab in San Francisco testing the newest technology. McAtee is most focused on how this technology can help in the marketing world.
“Suddenly, we have much more meaningful information and we can get rid of bad ads a lot faster, which is the end goal of a lot of this,” McAtee said.
As for worries about Big Brother technology, Jason Sosa, IMRSV founder and CEO, said privacy protection is a function built into Cara software – nothing is being recorded.
“The image itself never leaves the computer,” added McAtee. “It’s dumped from memory almost immediately.”
Bay Area shoppers that spoke with NBC Bay Area said just having more “eyes” on them turns them off.
“I would be more comfortable if they would warn me before I go into a store,” added Kristine Dungo of San Jose.
“I think it’s just ludicrous,” said Robert Garcia, a Santa Cruz grandfather who grew up in San Jose. “If there’s a camera watching me, that company’s going to lose a customer.”
But this technology is quickly expanding. McAtee pointed to technology that can gauge how excited someone is just by reading their eyes.
“There’s some software that can pick up your pulse in your eye,” McAtee said.
IPG Media Lab is also testing software from Real Eyes, a Massachusetts-based company, that allows web cams to scan a face and measure what the person is feeling, from happiness, sadness to anger and disgust.
“That says 20 seconds into this commercial, people lose interest. 25 seconds in, they frown,” explained McAtee. “Suddenly we have much more meaningful information and we can get rid of bad ads a lot faster.”
Experts say while this growing technology USN’t brand new, it is getting cheaper which means the public will be surrounded by more of it sooner than it realizes. For instance, a subscription to use Cara costs $40 a month. McAtee said comparable technology a year or two ago cost in the few-thousands of dollars.
“And these things are getting much more sophisticated, much faster because we’re able to gather data about everyone,” McAtee explained. “So every single person that walks in front of a screen, we know about them.”
For Matt Henry of San Mateo, this expanding world of technology is intriguing albeit a bit unnerving.
“That’s weird because then it could almost tell more about you than you would be aware of yourself,” he said.