Matt Dorey

A bird is sitting on the grass with a kite

Wearable Tech: The EigenMask

My idea for wearable tech that people actually need is a mask that can change your appearance on CCTV cameras. I may have conceived this idea during a cheese dream immediately after watching “Minority Report”. Anyway, you need this. Not because you are a criminal but because you have an identity to hide. I don’t believe that CCTV prevents crime (that’s a debate for a whole other post) and I think there’s very little to be gained from it after one occurs. Even so, the mask I propose would not prevent you from being identified if you were to commit a crime in front of the camera.

My mask would be mostly see-through with pixels that would deploy in regions across your face, changing over time. It would attempt to confound facial recognition by transforming your Eigenface as you move between cameras, so that one camera wouldn’t know that you were the person seen by another 200 metres up the road a few minutes ago. Think Rorschach’s mask from Watchmen.

It relies on the fact that the software is interpreting your face from a 2D picture taken from above. I think a mask that were somehow able to produce three-dimensional random transient protuberations would be rather unappealing to fellow citizens, where as a shifting Rorschach-like pattern might be quite fashionable. After all, I think that CCTV all over the place is probably responsible for the current epidemic of berk beards that almost every man seems to be sporting now.

The watched have to pre-empt the watchers. It is not hard to imagine that you could program facial recognition to take account of the mask, especially if it were to follow my conception of a very light disguise. Each mask would have a pseudo-random pattern with a different seed for each one so that its disguise of your face could not be classified by some algorithm. I’m still thinking this aspect through.

Meanwhile the reverse of the mask, at least around the eyes, could be useful as a Google Glass style display. It would also keep you warm in winter. Perhaps when you are at home it could be your VR headset. After all, the virtual reality revolution is on the way.

And if the worst came to the worst, at least you’d look a bit like a member of Daft Punk.


Featured image is a picture of Banksy’s “One Nation Under CCTV” taken by man_with_beard, as usual it’s a creative commons license. The picture of Daft Punk I just nicked off Google image search, apologies to the photographer who was no doubt paid a stack of money to take it.

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