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Taking Things At Face Value

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On: Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 9:04AM | By: Karen Cook

Taking Things At Face Value

Technology is heartless. By definition it has to be. Devices are created to perform jobs that are too boring or difficult for the common man to perform. They are helpful in most instances; they can also be frustrating much of the time. More and more, mankind is trusting to technology to keep us safe, healthy, and amused. It is only a matter of time before we have to ask, how much is too much? When should the responsibility fall on human shoulders?

A research team at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne has been working on a prototype for a camera that uses facial recognition software to determine human emotions. Based on common facial expressions and movements, the software can tell when you’re angry. By partnering with PSA Peugeot Citroen the Swiss researchers hope the camera could be used in automobiles to help with road rage. Eventually the software, it is hoped, will be able to detect other dangerous signs, like fatigue, distraction, and even mental instability.

Other companies are developing similar software. Samsung is working on the same thing for cell phones.

It all sounds helpful, until you think about the consequences. What response should a vehicle have to these warning signs? Are traffic authorities going to monitor the data coming from passing vehicles? What should an officer do with this information if he has it? Of course researchers don’t have to answer these questions. They just develop systems and leave the moral and legal questions to politicians.

This is all speculative at this point, but one has to ask what the tipping point is between technology that keeps you safer and technology that invades your privacy. Case in point: I love to sing in the car and I’m sure I make some grimace-y faces when I sing heavy metal. Will the camera know the difference?


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