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    Glasses That Confuse Facial Recognition Systems Are Coming to Japan

    Written by

    Emiko Jozuka

    Writer, UK

    Image: National Institute of Informatics

    We might soon be living in a world where advertisers exploit facial recognition technology to target us with customized ads in streets. Or, according to the researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII), where our photographs are snapped by surveillance or smartphone cameras equipped with facial recognition, and leaked onto public social networks for all to see.

    But a new “privacy visor” created by NII researchers could help wearers protect their anonymity by blocking out any pesky facial recognition systems. The glasses will hit shelves in Japan in 2016, and are expected to cost around ¥30,000 ($240).

    The tech behind the visor is pretty simple. It’s nothing like the previous version made by the same researchers, which consisted of 11 near-infrared flashing LEDs that blinded surveillance tech.

    According to a press release from the NII, this time around, the researchers are attaching a novel material (they don’t mention what exactly it is) to the visors. The material confuses facial recognition systems by absorbing and reflecting light. In a nutshell, it prevents facial recognition systems from focusing on your facial features.

    Previous attempts at facial recognition-scrambling tech have included completely covering your face, or using a wacky make-up strategy to “distort” it. These elaborate methods, assert the researchers, are disruptive for regular people who just want to go about their daily lives.

    The upgraded “privacy visor” has a slick titanium frame and can pretty much be worn like a pair of regular glasses now it doesn’t have those flashing lights that make you look like you just stepped out of CES.

    According to the researchers, the main aim of the visors is to protect individuals from being snapped by others in crowded places, and having their private information spread on social networks. The Wall Street Journal reports that, so far, the glasses have been able to trick facial recognition systems 90 percent of the time.

    Cool Japan is a column about the quirky and serious happenings in the Japanese scientific, technological and cultural realms. It covers the unknown, the mainstream, and the otherwise interesting developments in Japan.