There have been some tweets going around about a “wearable face projector” being employed at the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
It’s essentially the same as the scramble suits from Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly—instead of disguising yourself as someone else, it disguises you as everyone else, projecting a constantly shifting visage that drives the facial recognition AI crazy. It certainly makes sense that someone would try to use something like this in Hong Kong, where the mere act of protecting one’s identity in public is now punishable by a USD3,200 fine.
Except… it’s not from the Hong Kong protests. It’s actually an art project by Jing-Cai Liu, an industrial design student at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. Liu had come up with the concept of a wearable face projector as an undergrad at the University of the Arts in Utrecht. “In the future, the advertisement could call your name when you walk along the streets,” she writes on her website:
Mega databanks and high-resolution cameras in the streets stock hundreds of exabytes a year. But who has access to this data? It is possible that it could have commercial use, hence not only retail companies but also the advertisement industry could be very interested in this data in the coming future. They would hope to gain these personal data and information as much as they can.
The companies would know your personal interests and may set different retail strategies for you. It could be convenient for customers, but personal thoughts and opinions should be kept private. This product protects you from this privacy violation.
So no, it’s not a remarkable piece of cyberpunk technology made manifest in the middle of a radical protest movement. In fact, Liu even updated the description of her project video on YouTube to make it clear that her project, “has NOTHING to do with political purposes!”
But she still had a good point in designing it. And it’s still pretty cool.
Hong Kong joins the ranks of other autocratic nations that have banned face coverings in the name of national security: Sri Lanka, France, the Netherlands, Canada, etc (such bans have also been proposed in the UK, Australia, the USA).
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