Remember the first time you saw Terminator, when the cyborg portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger first spotted John Connor using the virtual reality technology that had been engineered into his brain? You might have thought: cool! I want that!
But then as you thought about it a little more, you may have been a little creeped out. Turns out you were totally justified.
Thirty-four years—yes, more than three decades ago—after Terminator director James Cameron introduced us to the idea of facial recognition technology, it has become reality.
Chinese railway police are using facial-recognition sunglasses to catch suspects at train stations in Zhengzhou, the capital of central Henan province. The eyewear, similar to the original Google Glass, was unveiled earlier this year and has already helped identify seven alleged criminals, according to the Communist Party’s official newspaper People’s Daily.
The glasses are linked to a database that can match travelers with criminal suspects. It’s not known exactly how long it takes for a match to be made in the real world, but Wu Fei, the CEO of the Beijing-based company that developed the glasses, LLVision Technology, told The Wall Street Journal that during testing the system was able to identify faces from a database of 10,000 in 100 milliseconds.
The sunglasses are controlled by a mobile unit and cost $636 (3,999 RMB), with an additional cost for facial recognition support. They give police “instant and accurate feedback” compared to the lag and static of using facial recognition through CCTVs as Wu Fei told the Wall Street Journal last month.
Chinese authorities say that, so far, the glasses have identified people suspected of a variety of misdeeds ranging from traffic infringements to more serious crimes like human trafficking. The technology also is credited with preventing 26 people using fake identity documents from traveling.
Chinese law requires people to use identity documents for train travel. The goal is to prevent people with excessive debt from using high-speed trains. It also is intended to limit the movement of religious minorities whose identity documents have been confiscated and who would likely have to wait years to obtain a valid passport.
Although this is the first time Chinese officials have used glasses to implement facial-recognition, the technology is widely used by police. What’s more, China also currently is building a system with the capability to recognize any of its 1.3 billion citizens in just three seconds.