5 Reasons to Be Terrified That Computers Can Now Read Faces

By Monte Richard

The ability of computers to recognize faces is so common now that your Xbox Kinect can do it, logging you in the moment you step in front of the thing. It seems like a fairly harmless invention — if anything, it will save you a few seconds when (for instance) your future house will recognize that it’s you at the door instead of a burglar. But this technology is going in a series of extremely creepy directions.

Recognizing you is just the beginning — the goal is to create software that can all but read your goddamned mind. Don’t believe us? Because the technology exists so that …

#5. Your Employer (and Everyone Else) Can Constantly Monitor Your Mood

If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know that you’re expected to smile, even if you’re having a really shitty day. But it’s OK, you can just fake it, right? Not anymore! Thanks to miraculous advancements in computers’ ability to read your face, there is software out there that can tell if your toothy grin is genuine or not. It’s already being used — in Japan, railway staff are now required to check their smile every morning with a Smile Scan.

No, that is not a hoax article, as far as we can tell. In a scene that would have seemed unrealistic in a sci-fi movie about a dystopian corporate future, employees must sit in front of a camera and let a computer program scan their expression and tell them whether their smile is smiley enough or if it needs work. Presumably a bad score earns them a severe electric shock.

#4. Software Will Monitor Whether You’re Paying Attention

So now they’ve got the technology to make sure customer service workers are keeping a smile frozen on their face every second of the day. But what about those of us in regular old desk jobs? What employers really need is a robot supervisor that can lurk over our shoulders, making sure we’re 100 percent invested in our task at all times, every day. They’ve totally got it.

Again, there are sensible applications of this technology — car manufacturer Saab has started installing cameras in their vehicles that watch your eyes while you drive — if you blink too much, or look at something that isn’t directly in front of you, an alarm sounds and tells you to get your shit together and pay attention. Well, that sounds helpful — it’ll be nice to know that the guy in the oncoming lane is watching the road instead of drifting off to sleep or texting his girlfriend. But, of course, it doesn’t stop there.

For instance, do you tend to let your attention drift during class? New technology being developed for educators can watch you in the classroom and read your expression and posture to detect whether you’re bored or not paying enough attention. In the future, lecturers might be able to call you out in class for letting your mind wander, or your boss might be able to detect how often your eyes roam away from his PowerPoint presentation.

#3. You’ll Soon Be Hooked to a Lie Detector, 24/7

Remember that TV show about the genius played by Tim Roth who would always tell if somebody was lying by studying microscopic movements of their face? That was partly based on science — there are some facial muscles you can’t consciously control, which can betray your true feelings when you’re telling a lie. In reality, it’s almost impossible for another person to detect them … but they’re developing facial recognition software that can.

Of course, the goal right now is to catch criminals — in Russia, they’re putting out ATMs that use voice and facial cues to determine your identity and tell if you’re being deceptive about your credit card application. And in England, they’re experimenting with new security cameras at airports that watch your face while you talk, looking for any hint of duplicity. How good are these machines at reading human emotions? Recent tests put the best algorithms at 82.5 percent accuracy. That’s a better rate than trained human interrogators.

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