Google won’t -- but they will.
Amid growing privacy concerns and repeated statements from Google that its futuristic wearable computer can’t recognize faces, a California software developer has done just that, releasing facial recognition software for Google Glass.
Lambda Labs software lets anyone wearing Google Glass look up faces in a crowd against a computer database, instantly showing someone’s name and any other vital bits of data contained in the app. And even the app developer acknowledges the implications for privacy.
“We have no plans to provide a global facial recognition database,” Stephen Balaban, founder of Lambda Labs, told FoxNews.com. “That’s probably not a good idea.”
Instead, Balaban’s technology is an API intended to allow other software developers working with early versions of Glass to write their own apps. Those software developers will provide databases of faces, which Glass will use to identify a face in a photo. Picture a doctor with 1,000 patients who could quickly look up the name and medical history of his patients while doing rounds, thanks to a custom medical app using the tech.
But Lambda Labs will put out its own app around the consumer launch of Glass to show off the technology, Balaban said.
“There isn’t much point in putting out an app at present; pretty much no one has Glass,” Balaban told FoxNews.com....
The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.
Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf) is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.
Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.
This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.
“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state, you do have to get permission to do things,” said Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”
For now, the legislation allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. But historically such limitations don’t last. The Social Security card, for example, was created to track your government retirement benefits. Now you need it to purchase health insurance.
“The Social Security number itself, it’s pretty ubiquitous in your life,” Calabrese said...
Police and politicians across the United States are pointing to the example of surveillance video that was used to help identify the Boston Marathon bombing suspects as a reason to get more electronic eyes on their streets.
From Los Angeles to Philadelphia, efforts include trying to gain police access to cameras used to monitor traffic, expanding surveillance networks in some major cities and enabling officers to get regular access to security footage at businesses.
Some in law enforcement, however, acknowledge that their plans may face an age-old obstacle: Americans’ traditional reluctance to give the government more law enforcement powers out of fear that they will live in a society where there is little privacy.
“Look, we don’t want an occupied state. We want to be able to walk the good balance between freedom and security,” said Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who heads the department’s counterterrorism and special operations bureau.
“If this helps prevent, deter, but also detect and create clues to who did (a crime), I guess the question is can the American public tolerate that type of security,” he said...
It's relatively easy to get something big and heavy to fly. With enough equipment, it's possible to load the object with lots of energy to power the flight, specialized parts to control it, and the computers (or people) needed to direct the flight. But things get challenging as you make things smaller, and it gets harder to squeeze all the requisite parts into an ever-shrinking space. In that, nature has us beat, since something like a fruit fly crams all the energy, control systems, and specialized hardware into an extremely compact form.
We may not be at fruit fly level yet, but researchers are giving the insects some competition. Today's issue of Science reports on miniature flying robots that aren't much bigger than a coin. The power and control are handled externally, but the tiny robots can still perform basic maneuvers, and they have enough lift to spare that they could fly under their own power for a few minutes if the right power storage were developed.
The authors are all from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, and they clearly find insects inspirational, noting that, despite their simple nervous systems, "flying insects are able to perform sophisticated aerodynamic feats such as deftly avoiding a striking hand." So they set out to build their own.
Simply scaling down mechanics that work for flight on larger objects wouldn't do. Scaling things down just results in too little force, or it creates a situation where surface interactions between the parts inhibit flight, as things like friction begin to dominate. Rather than taking the traditional route to get something tiny aloft—attaching it to some form of rotary engine—they returned to the fly for inspiration, making a pair of flapping wings.
On the fly, the wings work because the angle they take when moving upwards is different from the one they take when flapping down. The authors set that up so it happened passively; as the wings swept in opposite directions, the hardware at the joint where they met the robot's body forced them to rotate.
To get the wings to beat fast enough, the authors created two "muscles" made from a piezoelectric material, which changes shape when a voltage is applied. These flapped the wings at 120 beats a second. Not only is this rate similar to a fly's, but it also created a resonance in the robot's body that amplified the force of each beat. That resonant frequency was so important that the flight control system never changed it, even when it needed to change the force generated by the wing (to fly up or drop lower, for example). Instead, the force was controlled by changing how far the wing traveled with each beat...