Jun 2023—"If only I could remember people's names, I would be the most powerful person on earth." - Nilay Patel, Editor-in-chief of The Verge
An oft-repeated maxim on The Vergecast, Nilay has commented that the true killer app for augmented reality is being able to look at someone and know their name. The followup quip is that this would require a global facial recognition database, a privacy nightmare beyond compare. I tend to agree on both counts - everything I've seen so far from AR is niche where this might have legs, but I can't think of a single body on earth I'd trust to run a system like this.
Context: I'm fascinated by wearable tech. I don't want to put a chip under my skin, but I love thinking about the future of human-computer interaction and how we can be more engaged with the real world.
Nilay's idea got me wondering. Can we make any progress on this problem? I have a narrow and somewhat silly use case which might be a step in that direction.
Scene: a "networking event" with "industry people" Person A: "oh hey Dan it's been a while, I hope you've been doing well" Me: *panics* Me: *remembers I'm wearing Google Glass, blinks to show names* Me: "oh hey Chris Christopherson it's good to see you"
I'm not a networking event person, but for people who are, they probably have quite a large network on LinkedIn. LinkedIn, home of the high-quality direct-face-on be-suited professional profile photo, ideal for AI tooling to compare faces from a camera feed against.
Can I download the profile photos of people in my own personal LinkedIn network to my own personal device and use my own personal machine learning to figure out who this person is? We can do a fair amount of ML work directly on devices now, so you wouldn't need to participate in the feared global facial recognition database.
Benefits of this approach
Holes in this approach
Helping hustlers hustle isn't exactly saving the world. In fact, for the networking event case just ask people to wear name tags and problem solved - using AR is the most over-engineered solution I can imagine. But I'm more curious whether this on-device people-whose-photos-I-can-access system could be useful in other ways.
Realistically, the utility of this is a ways off. I haven't actually built this, if you read this hoping to find a download link. Even if I wanted to make a prototype using a phone camera there's too many new things I'd need to learn for it to be a good side project.2 There's definitely prior art in on-device facial recognition that someone else should extend with a "Log in with LinkedIn" button. Let me know if you do something like this!
Thanks for reading.Photo credit Wikimedia Commons