Blinded by the Light

reflectacles demo - camera 13If you watch a lot of cop shows like I do, you may have noticed how often facial recognition software provides the good guys with crucial images for identifying criminals, victims, and even witnesses. Though the real thing probably doesn’t have quite the success rate as its fictional counterpart, it really is amazing technology.

However,… with CCTV cameras here, there, and everywhere, — and not always obvious — isn’t it a bit disconcerting, knowing that people are (or could be) watching your every move? (At least, when those cameras are present.) Most of us probably recognize the need for such security measures in and around banks, for instance, and other institutions where financial transactions are handled and proprietary information is located. But, when the cameras are on street corners, traffic lights, subway platforms, etc., monitored by law enforcement and other government officials, it can get kinda creepy. “Police-state” creepy.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that someone has finally invented technology to counter such surveillance. Call it “anti-facial recognition”, if you will. Or, as creator Scott Urban calls his new eyewear product, “Reflectacles”. They are made from “solid blocks of clear cellulose acetate” and “micro-prismatic retro-reflective materials” normally only used in specialized fields. Microscopic examination reveals “many very small cube-like prisms that bounce light along each edge of the prism surface and then bounce it right back in the direction the light originated from,” as Urban explained to The Sun. No glare to the wearer, though.

Reflectacles Originals, available in seven different colors, reflect only visible light. Reflectacles Ghost, available only in Gray, intensifies the effect by incorporating micro-corner-cubes, “the most reflective material that currently exists… used in laboratory situations or for signal/controller applications.” This model reflects light from the visible and infrared portions of the spectrum.

reflectacles“This means, security cameras that work using infrared technology, which basically means a majority of such devices, will never capture your facial features when you are wearing Reflectacles Ghost…. [They] can also reflect visible light, due to which drivers on the road will be able to notice you at once as soon as you enter the road no matter if you are walking or riding a bike.” (H/T Hackread)

I think this is pretty cool, and I totally understand some people’s being a bit freaked out by the increased surveillance by the state. (Even more so in places like the UK than in the US… for now.) No surprise, then, that these are Urban’s primary target market. But I was concerned about criminals of various sorts using the tech to protect their own identities while committing crimes. To this, Urban points out that full-face ski masks are still cheaper and (in most cases) more effective for such nefarious purposes.

Sturdily built and reasonably priced (£77 Originals; £101 Ghost), Reflectacles will begin being sold in June 2017.

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