Behind the Lens: Chinese Police Don Facial Recognition Sunglasses

Posted on by Sean Williamson

Surveying the scene from behind facial recognition sunglasses Over the past 10 years we have seen a huge increase in the development and implementation of Internet technologies and Artificial Intelligence. Everything from the online casino industry to the entertainment industry, to law enforcement and advertising, to online shopping and social media has benefited from the on-going development of AI integration.

While it may come as a surprise to many, the Chinese communist government is now taking up the torch to lead the effort into the advancement of artificial intelligence. Earlier this year, China announced plans to become a major world leader in AI by the year 2030. China also proposed to triple its output of industrial robots within the next two years to 100 000 units.

China Looks to the Future of AI

Local governments have already responded to the call, with multiple cities establishing venture funds, tech parks and incubation spaces. In Beijing, the city spent approximately $36 million on converting an alleyway of bookstores into a tech-based office park that now houses hundreds of start-ups. Even before the official policy to push tech, the Chinese have always been on the forefront of technology and AI integration.

Facial Recognition Wearables Take the Lead

Facial recognition software leading the wayThe country’s latest development has made headlines around the world. In the busy city of Zhengzhou, Chinese railway police are now sporting a fancy pair of facial-recognition sunglasses. Bearing a striking resemblance to the original Google Glass wearable technology, the eyewear is designed to identify criminal suspects in busy train stations in the city. According to the Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, the system has already identified a total of 7 fugitives who include wanted criminals involved in human trafficking cases as well as hit-and-run cases.

The system also identified 26 people involved in identity fraud, simply by posting police officers with facial recognition glasses at four entrances at railway stations across the city. The sunglasses/wearable tech are worn as a normal pair of sunglasses, but are also connected to a tablet device. By looking at the faces of the travellers coming in and out of the train station, the device scans the face of the passengers using facial recognition technology. It then activates software on the tablet, which searches faces in a database looking for a possible match with suspects.

While it is not known how quickly a match can be identified in real life, the company which developed the technology has claimed that during testing, the system could accurately identify a match from a database of 10 000 people in 100 milliseconds. That is less than the time it takes for your eyes to blink.

Facial recognition software is already widely used by the police, but this is the first time it has been integrated into wearable technology. China is also reportedly building a system which is capable of recognised every single one of its 1.3 billion citizens in just three seconds.

Major Tech Breakthrough or Infringement of Privacy?

While some hail this type of technology as a major breakthrough, it has also drawn significant condemnation from human rights groups as it is seen as a major infringement of people’s right to privacy. According to major activists, they believe that Chinese authorities think they can obtain social stability by placing their citizens under a microscope. According to them, this is a recipe to create animosity between the people and the government. They have since called for the stop of such technology and the destruction of related data.

While this is unlikely to happen, the technology is reportedly being used to monitor religious minorities, as well as the capture of wanted fugitives. If China is indeed pushing to become a major influence in the AI sector in the next 10 years, the introduction of facial recognition wearables is just the first step.


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