Privacy Visor eyeglasses blocks facial recognition systems

Aug. 10, 2015
Researchers from Japan’s National Institute of Informatics have developed facial "unrecognition" eyeglasses, which disable facial recognition systems in cameras.  

Seen on Wall Street Journal: The ultimate disguise for the digital era is set to go on sale in Japan. The National Institute of Informatics said it has developed eyeglasses that help users protect their privacy by disabling facial-recognition systems in cameras.

Read full article on Wall Street Journal.

Our take:

Facial recognition systems consisting of cameras and software are a topic that we’ve covered on Vision Systems Design a number of times. These can be used for such things as police work, entertainment, and research and development, including emotional indicators and age estimation.

In this case, however, researchers from Japan’s National Institute of Informatics have developed facial "unrecognition"” eyeglasses, which disable facial recognition systems in cameras. The product, which is called the Privacy Visor, uses unique angles and patterns on its lens that reflect or absorb light, which prevents the recognition systems in digital cameras and smartphones from spotting a person’s face in a shot and focusing on it.

"The Privacy Visor is the world’s first product with this technology," the institute’s Professor Isao Echizen told Japan Real Time. Mr. Echizen, who led the research, said his goal was to protect the privacy of individuals in a world where cameras and smartphones can automatically focus on people’s faces without them knowing, and where such images are shared widely on social networks. "We are often told not to unveil our personal information to others, but our faces are also a type of an ID. There should be a way to protect that," he said.

Testing of the product indicated that the eyeglasses worked 90% of the time. A product such as the Privacy Visor raises some interesting questions. Some folks out there may choose to use them for the simple fact that they do not want to be recognized. (A celebrity, maybe?) But others, who are perhaps attempting to evade the law, may use them for more nefarious reasons.

One more idea that I can’t help but to think of whenever stories such as this pop up is the scene from the 2002 science fiction movie Minority Report, in which Tom Cruise is walking briskly down a hallway and digital billboards are blitzing him with personalized ads as a result of facial recognition technologies. Check it out here, if you haven’t seen the movie. One could certainly see the benefits of using these glasses should facial recognition-based personalized ads ever come to fruition.

- James Carroll, Senior Web Editor

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