Lambda Labs launching facial recognition API for Google Glass

May 28, 2013
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Google Glass Vision

Dystopian future, here we come! Google Glass is about to receive access to a new facial recognition API, courtesy of Lambda Labs. The new API should be out within a week, provided that all goes as it should.

Who is Lambda Labs? They are a small startup that released a non-Glass facial recognition tech API just last year, and currently have over 1,000 developers using it. Now they are taking this experience and tailoring it specifically to Google Glass apps.

This means that the door could soon be open to Glass apps that allow you to match names with faces, get detailed info about landmarks and much more. Of course there is also a pretty big limitation here – it doesn’t work in real time, due to the Google mirror API.

The Mirror API doesn’t allow for live streaming camera data to be sent over to a developer’s server. That means that you will need to snap a picture, send it in to Lambda, and then wait for it to be analyzed. After a few seconds, you will then receive a notification with the results.

So does this technology mean that a perfect stranger could look at you, snap a picture and receive detailed information about you? Short answer, no. Long answer, it can only take data specifically from Lambda’s database, which includes things like pictures of well-known celebrities and important landmarks.

Great idea, but what about privacy concerns?

There is a lot of amazing potential for facial recognition, but then there are also both real and perceived privacy concerns when it comes to Google Glass and the idea of facial recognition technology.

The company’s co-founder Stephen Balaban recognizes this is uncharted territory, and understands that there could eventually be changes made that could block out the technology:

“There is nothing in the Glass Terms of Service that explicitly prevents us from doing this. However, there is a risk that Google may change the ToS in an attempt to stop us from providing this functionality.” ”This is the first face recognition toolkit for Glass, so we’re just not sure how Google, or the privacy caucus, will react.”

The Congressional Privacy Caucus has already expressed concern over Google Glass privacy issues before, specifically relating to facial recognition technology, so Balaban is right to be unsure how the U.S. congress might feel about the new API. Google and Congress might also receive additional pressure to take action against the tech from anti-Glass organizations and other groups concerned about privacy violations.

At least right now, there is nothing preventing the company from releasing their facial technology over to Glass, as the Glass API does not specifically ban such functionality.

Personally I’m excited about the future of Google Glass and the technologies that it will introduce, as long as privacy concerns are addressed and opt-out options exist for those that are concerned. What do you think of the idea of facial technology coming to Google Glass? Excited or worried about the possibilities?

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