A dystopian vision of Apple’s next big thing

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.


  1. Gregg Thurman said:
    George Orwell must be proud. It’s time to move to the mountains.

    July 9, 2018
  2. John Kirk said:
    GPS was developed by the government. It was used to target missiles with precision. Now it’s used to help poor saps like me find our way to the closest WaWa.

    Am I concerned about facial recognition being abused? Sure. But what China is doing is as different from what Apple is doing as missiles are different from Uber. The military applications and the commercial applications of facial recognition are not the same and we should not be in a hurry to conflate the two.

    July 9, 2018
  3. Richard Wanderman said:
    One use for this kind of technology that appeals to me (an aging boomer) is in helping augment my failing memory, not just for faces but for many things. By the time this technology matures I’ll probably be wearing glasses full time although I have to say that my ability to deal with a heads-up display (multi-tasking) is diminishing as well.

    July 9, 2018
  4. Ken Cheng said:
    One of the many reasons why I sold my home in Shanghai. The pollution and gov’t surveillance was too much. There’s all push, but no push back. As long as the economy chugs along, the people seem mostly willing to accept their lack of civil liberties. (sigh)

    July 9, 2018

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