A dystopian vision of Apple’s next big thing

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Seen through Chinese AR headgear, the future of facial recognition looks grim.

 

From Paul Mozur’s front-page story in Monday’s New York Times: With Cameras And A.I., China Closes Its Grip:

In the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, a police officer wearing facial recognition glasses spotted a heroin smuggler at a train station…

chinese ar headgearChina has become the world’s biggest market for security and surveillance technology, with analysts estimating the country will have almost 300 million cameras installed by 2020. Chinese buyers will snap up more than three-quarters of all servers designed to scan video footage for faces, predicts IHS Markit, a research firm. China’s police will spend an additional $30 billion in the coming years on techno-enabled snooping, according to one expert quoted in state media.

Government contracts are fueling research and development into technologies that track faces, clothing and even a person’s gait. Experimental gadgets, like facial-recognition glasses, have begun to appear…

Chinese companies are developing globally competitive applications like image and voice recognition. Yitu took first place in a 2017 open contest for facial recognition algorithms held by the United States government’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence. A number of other Chinese companies also scored well.

My take: I’m told by an analyst who tracks headgear technology that Apple is three to five years away from a marketable product. It sounds like the Chinese, unhampered by any privacy concerns—in fact, incentivized to surveil—may get there first.