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Spectrum: Foiling Facial Recognition, Chief Happiness Officers

Also, how well does your smartphone know you?

by / September 8, 2014

How to Beat Biometrics

While some people have made peace with the fact that cameras in public places record many of the things you do in your private time, others are determined to buck the system — or at least see if it can be bucked. Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic set out to camouflage his face in precisely the right way to foil facial recognition technology that might seek to track his movements around the nation’s capital.

He styled his hair to obscure his eyes and the bridge of his nose, and painted his face in a pattern called computer vision dazzle, aimed at keeping facial recognition algorithms from identifying him using the patterns of light and dark and color found in the human face. The term “CV dazzle” has its roots in the patterns employed by navies in World War I and II to disguise the size and movement of their ships, a method of protecting them from foes.

In the end, Meyer didn’t quite achieve the anonymity he sought, as while he may have confounded the algorithms behind facial recognition technology, he caught more than his share of attention from the humans around him, confused by his unusual face paint. “The very thing that makes you invisible to computers makes you glaringly obvious to other humans,” he reported.

Know Thyself

Does your smartphone know you better than you know yourself? University of Michigan researchers are testing an app that can alert family members and medical personnel to a bipolar episode based on clues collected by your phone. A study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health monitors the user’s voice, picking up clues to manic or depressive episodes. Computer scientists Zahi Karam and Emily Mower Provost, and psychiatrist Melvin McInnis think the technology has the potential to help with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Source: TechCrunch

Outsourcing Peter Piper

Robots are threatening yet another largely manual task: hand-picking produce. Roboticists from the European Union participating in the CROPS (Clever Robots for Crops) study have prototyped machines that can tell if fruit or vegetables are ready for picking. Using multispectral, fluorescence and thermal imaging, robots detect ripeness, evaluate foliage and even spot people in their vicinity.

Still years away from widespread use, it’s not winning any speed contests just yet, and navigating 3-D crops like grapes and apples remains out of reach, so far.

Source: Gizmodo


Who’s in Charge of Happy?

It seems someone’s always looking for the next three-letter acronym to hit corporate America. Who knew it would come from the age-old quest for happiness? Chief happiness officers are cropping up in Silicon Valley tech companies and other organizations. CHOs are charged with having a finger on the pulse of the workforce’s emotional well-being, and advocating for policy and cultural changes that create conditions for happiness.

One early CHO equivalent is Google’s Chade-Meng Tan, whose official title is Jolly Good Fellow. Fueled by his self-penned job description to “enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace,” Tan’s work is inspired by a Buddhist monk who took a 180-degree turn after earning a Ph.D. in molecular genetics, choosing instead to meditate his way to happiness. Could we soon see CHOs in government?

Source: Mashable

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Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.

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