What We Don’t Know About Facial Recognition Could Hurt Us

This week, on the heels of the viral craze that is FaceApp, we got some disquieting news. It turns out the app developer is based in Russia, meaning that 150 million people’s facial data is now, for all intents and purposes, readily accessible to the Russian government. But should we really be panicking? Yes and no. On the one hand, it’s unlikely that Russia’s looking for further election meddling opportunities in this data set. On the other, every person who uploaded their photos has unwittingly provided priceless training data for facial recognition algorithms. As businesspeople, it’s hard not to think of the innovations and commercial opportunities that abound in a data set like this. But as global citizens, we have to consider the darker uses, too: These images can be used to create deep fakes, and they will almost certainly be sold to global government agencies. Across the world, legislators are already banning/halting the use of facial recognition by police and local governments due to the lack of oversight. It’s time for a comprehensive facial recognition law, and industry needs to make its voice heard, lest regulators overreach and quash the potential value in these technologies.

Here Comes Digital Fusion

We all remember Google Glass. Here at Forrester, we got really excited about the prospect of seeing the entire Bay Area running around with those slightly nerdy/cool-looking devices, engaging with the digital world as they walked around talking to themselves in an even more distracted state. Then, nothing for a long time, a classic example of tech that was slightly before its time — but don’t write off augmented/virtual/mixed reality (AR/VR/MR). In fact, prepare for its comeback. A recent Forrester Technographics® data analysis of technology initiative investments in 2019 revealed that the biggest difference between beginning and advanced firms was ( . . . drumroll, please) that advanced companies were much more likely to be investing in AR/VR/MR. What’s more, advanced companies were more likely to be investing in smart, connected things and distributed compute stacks that leverage open source and microservices. All this tech works together in chains of innovation to enable the fusion of the digital and physical world. We think this is going to hit industrials and physical service providers before it comes to consumers, but B2C is not that far out and accelerating. Gen Z may be the last generation to not be fully plugged in most of the time.

Use AI with Smart Cameras, Not Just To Capture Actions But Also To Shield Participants

It’s becoming increasingly common for commercial and government developers to leverage AI to enhance, document, and pull up conclusions from the video content captured by smartphones. However, there can be a security and compliance risk if you capture citizens in these videos but don’t get their permission to use them. To help address this challenge, there is a new open source, AI-powered software solution from Hard Fork that helps you use AI to remove people and moving objects from videos. This tool not only lets you remove people you don’t have permission to capture but also lets you cover them up so they can’t be identified but their presence and actions can still be captured. This software was built by a developer going by the pseudonym “zllrunning,” who has since uploaded it to GitHub. Similar solutions have been brought to market by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and by Adobe. But since this one is open source, this means you can modify it to fit your needs.

Just for Fun — But Also An Indication Of Where Physical + Digital Is Headed

A nutrition supplement company, Thorne, paid for a marketing campaign called “The Frontier Within” that included a frankly beautiful, physical display. Over two days in June, visitors attached sensors and swayed in front of a giant screen as their inner selves — their respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems — were rendered in a giant multicolor display. See the video and read about the technology here. Besides being quite beautiful, the display showcases an interesting blend of physical + digital. As brands face a crisis of customer experience sameness, rethinking the boundary between online and off- will fuel a much-needed next age of creativity. Think of where gamers on Twitch might take this . . .