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Google's new AI can detect when screen snoopers are looking at your phone

Two Google researchers have built an AI program that uses a front-facing smartphone camera to catch nosey neighbors in the act.

Published onNovember 28, 2017

Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I’m using my phone while traveling via a subway system I always feel like someone behind me is closely inspecting each tap and swipe I make. If only a fancy bit of AI tech could cure my paranoia

Luckily for me (or unluckily for any subway snoops), two Google researchers have done just that with a project dubbed the “electronic screen protector”.

The brains behind the AI-powered software, Hee Jung Ryu and Florian Schroff, will fully debut their work next week at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference in California. For now, though, we can see an example of how the technology works when installed on a Google Pixel phone.

The software utilizes both the Pixel’s front-facing camera and eye-detection AI to alert the user if someone is prying into their affairs. The pair claim their creation works so well that it can catch nosey neighbors in around two milliseconds, regardless of poor lighting or positioning. You can see this in action in the video below.


In the second, on-screen scenario, Ryu is composing a quick message when the software recognizes an intrusive gaze and temporarily closes the app. The vomit rainbow added to the culprit is a nice touch too.

While there’s no official word on the whether the software will ever make it to a wider market, it’s not hard to imagine how helpful the technology could be, especially for users that have to access sensitive documents on the move.

What do you think of the Google researchers’ invention? Are you ever worried someone is watching your Netflix downloads over your shoulder? Let us know in the comments!