Technology: facial recognition to eye scans and thought control

You stare at a ceiling light and it switches on. The same applies when you stare at the coffee machine or focus your eyes on the button showing your preferred washing machine cycle. You refocus on the “on” button and away it goes.

Looking intently at the television switches it on and you watch a streaming channel. The ads all look appealing. Somehow the TV knows which ads you like from your mood when watching earlier ones. And your home robot slinks around the corner, out of sight, having discerned you are in a filthy mood.

This isn’t telepathy. It isn’t the distant future. It’s part of how we are about to communicate with electronic devices. It’s potentially our most intimate interaction with machines.

Devices that scan your eyes, judge where you look, glean your mood and act on electrical signals from your brain are not science fiction. Versions exist now and they’re coming to your phone, tablet, notebook and PC.

Even basic face recognition software is becoming more sophisticated and reaching new markets.

In Israel a Tel Aviv start-up called Faception reportedly has developed technology that identifies character traits and mood, including spotting who may be a terrorist, by analysing a person’s face.

In Russia, start-up NTechLab has launched an app called Findface that reportedly seeks to match photos you take in the street with members of Russian social network Vkontakte.

News site Digital Trends reports that so far FindFace has performed about one quadrillion photo comparisons using images from Vkontakte, which has about 200 million profiles.

That’s just the start. Companies that specialise in iris tracking, that harness cameras and artificial intelligence to read and interpret emotions, and devices that pick up the electrical signals sent to muscles from the brain are a growing multi-billion-dollar economy. And the big tech companies are investing in them.

In 2012, Intel pumped $US21 million into Swedish eye-tracking tech firm Tobii, taking about a 10 per cent stake.

Medical diagnostics and assessment, lie detection, attention monitoring, training and rehabilitation are among the listed applications.

These technologies can be godsends to many of those suffering from disabilities. Tobii’s tracking system lets physically disabled people control a Windows 10 system with their eyes. It’s for those with spinal cord injury, motor neurone disease, Rett syndrome or muscular dystrophy.

Eye tracking also can evaluate a user experience on a device and provide user feedback in infant and child research.

Use has spread quickly to the mainstream. At last January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, gaming company MSI showed off a laptop with integrated Tobii eye tracking called the GT72S Tobii.

To read the rest of this article, published in The Australian, please click here.