The überhyped Google Glass augmented-reality specs will take a step beyond mere facial recognition technology, and recognize you not only by your features, but by what you're wearing.
The technology to be incorporated into Google's geeky goggles is called InSight, and was developed by Srihari Nelakuditi of the University of South Carolina, reports New Scientist in its March 9 issue.
The problem that Nelakuditi sought to solve is that facial recognition is all well and good if a subject is looking directly into a camera, but when you're wearing Google Glass you might find yourself scanning an entire crowd, searching for someone who may or may not be looking directly at you.
In a partnership with Romit Roy Choudhury and his crew at Durham, North Carolina's Duke University, Nelakuditi developed a recognition system that recognizes not your mug, but instead your "fashion fingerprint" – what you're wearing, including your clothing, jewelry, glasses, and the like. And, somewhat ominously for secure areas, your badge.
The group's prototype used a smartphone app to snap pictures of its subjects while they were web browsing, emailing, and the like, then used those images to create a spatiogram – esentially a histogram with added spatial-context information – that contained information on the distribution of colors, patterns, and textures of those subjects' garb.
Those spatiograms were then fed into a Google Glass headset and used to pick people out of a crowd. Even when the targets had their backs were to the camera, the system was 93 per cent successful in early testings with 15 different subjects.
InSight, disappointingly, won't flash snarky value judgments about a person's sartorial sophistication onto your Google Glass eyepiece – but what's a third-party app ecosystem for, eh?
There's one small drawback to the InSight echnology, however: people change their clothes. If your spatiogram was developed when you were wearing, say, a loud Hawaiian shirt, it's not going to identify you when you next appear in a Zuckerbergian hoodie.
"A person's visual fingerprint is only temporary, say for a day or an evening," Nelakuditi told New Scientist.
Maybe so – but we suggest that the spatiograms of such a-fashionistas as Chairman Mao, Larry Fine of The Three Stooges, many a black-shirted emo kid, and your decidedly dowdy and unimaginatively conventional Reg reporter might be reasonably consistent on a longer-term basis.
For that matter, you might be able to skip recalibrating your InSight-equipped Google Glass entirely during your next holiday at Southern California's famous Glen Eden nudist resort. ®