Using facial recognition seems pretty seamless, think of your iPhone. Yet, a human face has actually been confused with a toaster, according to a facial recognition technology expert.
If a computer, which is thought to be highly reliable, will confuse a human face for a toaster, what might that mean for facial recognition accuracy when seeking out suspects of crimes? Possibly, not so reliable.
“Obviously, the technology has immense value in promoting societal interests such as efficiency and security but it also represents a threat to some of our individual interests, particularly privacy,” Nessa Lynch, associate professor of law at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Lynch and other experts are part of a research project that will be completed in mid-2020. The researchers presented some of their findings during a panel recently held at the university.
Some of the very first images used to test data were those of convicted felons in Florida. They had abused meth and had great cheekbones. But, that presented problems when using facial recognition on actual real folk without a meth habit.
The cheekbones are very different than the average person, which can happen when you eat food. Data from such a source was not useful when training a system to recognize normal people, said Rachel Dixon, Privacy and Data Protection Deputy Commissioner at the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner in Australia.
Companies who sell the technology products often claim they are highly reliable, but Dixon said, often they are reliable because of the environments where they are used, which may be unvarying. And, the systems are tuned for these specific environments.
“…Picking you out walking randomly down the street can be quite challenging. There’s a whole bunch of environmental factors there that go to essentially reducing the confidence level,” Dixon said in a story published on Ideasroom. “None of this is absolute. There is no one-to-one match. And by perturbing an image even a small amount you can make the machine-learning system think the person is a toaster. I’m not joking.”
If a computer recognizes a face, for example, as person of interest in a crime, it is very hard to change that perception, even if it is wrong, because humans have a hard time believing a machine can make a mistake, especially if it has said it is the correct match, Dixon explained.
In the United States, a conservative estimate is that roughly a quarter of all the 18,000 law enforcement agencies have access to facial recognition systems, particularly for the use in investigations. Yet, Georgetown Law Professor Clare Garvie said there are no laws – at the state or federal level – governing its use.
Garvie, a senior associate at the center on privacy and technology at Georgetown said, “As a result, this technology has been implemented largely without transparency to the public, without rules around auditing or public reporting, without rules around who can be subject to a search. As a result, it is not just suspects of a criminal investigation that are the subject of searches. In many jurisdictions, witnesses, victims or anybody associated with a criminal investigation can also be the subject of a search.”
Because there is little reporting and auditing of the use of the technology, it’s unclear if agencies are checking to determine if it’s being misused or if it is actually a helpful and successful tool, Garvie said. Are law enforcement officials “catching the bad guys” or is the use of the technology a waste of money, which she said she suspects it is in some jurisdictions.
Meanwhile, it may come as no surprise to some, those often caught in the crosshairs are from lower socio-economic status or marginalized populations.
In one instance, a person who was ranked 319th for being a likely match based on the algorithmic ranking, was the one police arrested. The police also failed to provide the ranking evidence to the defense lawyers.
In the United Kingdom, the technology has been used extensively and with mixed results by law enforcement and businesses in order to search for people on watch lists, according to Dr. Joe Purshouse from the School of Law at the University of East Anglia in the UK.
“The human rights implications for privacy, freedom of assembly – those are chilling, Purshouse said, adding the marginalized are caught in the middle such as, “Suspects of crime, people of lower socio-economic status who are forced to use public space and rely more heavily on public space than people who have economic advantages, perhaps.”
Elon Musk wants to connect your brain to a computer this year
(TECH NEWS) Two companies are gearing up to “upgrade” humans by connecting technology with the human brain.
For many years, people have talked about frontiers and new places that have yet to be explored. Whether it’s the deep ocean floors or the ever-expanding vastness of outer space, there are things we still haven’t seen or fully come to understand. The same goes for comprehending what’s happening behind our own eyeballs; the multiple folds of the human brain still keep many mysteries from us.
This year though, two companies have claimed that they will be uncovering those secrets. Brain mapping and recording has been a topic of interest for a number of years and has helped numerous scientific studies. The ability to analyze the functions of the brain and record from a wider range of subjects gives limitless possibilities to scientific studies. It can also unfold a medical crisis faster than waiting for symptoms to appear externally.
Kernel, an LA-based biologically focused startup, raised $53 million for its non-invasive ‘Neuroscience as a Service’ technology. They are focusing on two main approaches, the Flux and Flow techniques. Flux measures the magnetic fields generated by neutrons in the brain. Flow measures blood throughout the brain. CEO Bryan Johnson released in a statement, “if we can quantify thoughts and emotions, conscious and subconscious, a new era of understanding, wellness, and human improvement will emerge.” This approach could revolutionize how we adapt to viewing the brain. It could be done safely and even remotely for people’s health.
CEO of Neuralink, Jared Birchall, and Co-founder Elon Musk, are the other company that have announced that their next company’s attempt to connect humans and computers will be in August of this year. They are taking a different approach that could be ultimately more fruitful, if a tad dangerous. Their company is working on a procedure to implant gossamer-thin wires directly into a human brain that then connects to an external computer processing unit.
Their ultimate goal is to eventually make the device wireless for ease of use and maneuverability. They have performed this procedure in animals, according to their plans revealed in 2019, and will be looking to move onto humans this year.
Their initial goal is to use the technology to help mitigate the effects of neurological disorders in patients with severe mobility issues and/or other daily function impacts. This will hopefully lead to an upgrade in human and computer interactions, and possibly even allowing our brains to interact with computers at the speed of thought.
The future is bright and full of wires.
Google Maps will soon display traffic lights
(TECH NEWS) The addition of traffic light positions to Google Maps promises to boost navigation accuracy. Now you won’t run a light while looking at navigation.
At over 150 million monthly users, Google Maps’ value is not to be understated. With a new feature that shows traffic light positions rolling out to select devices and locations soon, one can expect that trend to continue.
A common issue with navigation via an app–especially when navigating solo–is a lack of precision that can lead to confusion, missed exits, potentially dangerous driving, and, worst of all, spilled coffee. By adding the location of traffic lights, Google Maps will improve both landmark recognition and automated navigation by providing drivers with more accessible information.
It’s worth noting a couple of arguing points, the first of which is the assertion that Google is starting from scratch on this feature. They aren’t. In fact, Japan-based Google Maps users have had access to traffic light positioning for years; Google is simply expanding the feature to include a larger number of cities and population density.
In a similar vein, Google also isn’t the first company to implement an ease-of-access feature such as this. Apple Maps has incorporated traffic light recognition since the release of iOS 13, and while its use is hit-or-miss (my iPhone 11 fails to pick up most traffic lights in my admittedly rural town of residence), the option to have Siri direct users to the nearest traffic light rather than saying “in 213.7 feet, turn left” is helpful.
That said, Apple Maps is a service which sees a little over 20 million monthly users–a far cry from Google Maps’ monthly base. For Google, accuracy and speed of updates will be paramount for a successful, routinely helpful launch.
At the time of this writing, Google plans to release the traffic light feature in New York, San Francisco, and a few other United States cities. The feature will be available on Android devices–sorry for now, Apple users–and will ideally expand to encompass most of the country if the initial release is successful.
It will be interesting to see how comprehensive Google’s coverage is and how quick the company is to adjust positioning of lights as cities do what cities do best. For now, if you have an Android device, keep an eye on your Maps app–good things are coming your way.
How Microsoft plans to upskill millions of workers during COVID-19
(TECH NEWS) Microsoft is providing affordable and accessible resources to upskill workers during the COVID-19 economy.
While the undeniable amount of job loss in the Unites States, thanks to COVID-19, may have lost some steam in the news, there are many people out of work and job searching. As of June 6, 2020, “Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 4.8 million in June, and the unemployment rate declined to 11.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.”
This means many Americans are quietly pondering their next move. Some are freaking out over what their next place or type of employment will be, while others are taking a minute to pause and re-design their life’s path. Both may be hopeful that their career is aligning with their ultimate goals or ways in which they would prefer to live their life via professional pursuits and family preferences. There may be an optimistic outlook as well if they have been able to score interviews and feel some excitement about new opportunities amongst the angst and uncertainty.
However, as you may likely know, after a job loss, the job seeker has some extra time to think and this can be scary for some. They may catch themselves with extra worry or spinning in the what ifs? What if I don’t have the skills for the jobs in demand? What if I’m too old? What if they are not looking to hire someone with my credentials? What if I am unable to replace my salary?
Let’s look at the data when we cannot get out of our heads. What are jobs that are in demand and will be growing? According to VentureBeat and Microsoft, here are the top 10 jobs that are in demand and likely to grow over the next decade:
- Software developer
- Sales representative
- Project manager
- IT administrator
- Customer service specialist
- Digital marketing specialist
- IT support / help desk
- Data analyst
- Financial analyst
- Graphic designer
In tandem, Microsoft is providing access to “learning paths” and resources for users to develop skills for these jobs, which will be available from today until the end of March 2021, and includes a series of videos to help jobseekers start off on the right foot for each role. Microsoft will also connect more technical roles with other resources and tools, including its bot-powered GitHub Learning Lab where budding coders can practice new skills. And feeding into this, Microsoft said that it will join the dots through to qualifications, by offering “low-cost access” to industry-recognized Microsoft certifications “based on exams that demonstrate proficiency in Microsoft technologies,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a separate blog post.”
Venture Beat goes on to say that “Microsoft has announced a slew of new initiatives designed to open up access to new digital skills, including cash grants, providing access to data, affordable certifications for Microsoft products, and a new learning app baked directly into Microsoft Teams.”
Looks like those software developers aren’t going away and you can hate on sales all you want, but those are needed for companies to keep their doors open and sell their products or services.
It seems apparent that the tech giant is looking to make a positive impact and help upskill workers to be able to explore and gain the skills they need to pursue these available and growing job opportunities. They are utilizing the data available within the LinkedIn platform to provide insights on job postings, as well as pledged to support access to learning and non-profit organizations. Microsoft is also making smart moves to grow and expand in an area where they see some major growth opportunities (within the LinkedIn Learning platform and MS Teams). Microsoft CEO mentioned that we have seen a 2-year digital shift in about two months due to COVID-19.
However, this does pose a question – how long will it take for hiring managers to catch up on reviewing resumes of those that had to make a job switch and may not have the previous experience they typically look for when hiring? There is fair room for a discussion that those reviewing resumes will also need to be informed of the career shifts of candidates due to COVID-19 and may need to spend a little bit more time making sure they are not dismissed for looking to make a switch after their upskill experience.
There may also be some questions from employees if they do not feel they resonate with any of those jobs listed as growing over the next decade. We may see a spike in entrepreneurial activity and people setting out to create and design their own work-life harmony – especially if the remote work opportunities are only going to grow exponentially.
How a newly funded coffee delivery startup is thriving during COVID
Walmart+ hopes to beat Amazon at their own game
Elon Musk wants to connect your brain to a computer this year
Metrics that SaaS startups should track to achieve growth
Walmart teams up with ThredUp: The online market for second-hand fashion is heating up
HEROES Act could increase unemployment stimulus benefits, add return to work bonus
A closer look at the HEROES act, and who stands to benefit the most
The White House pushes for $450 per week return to work bonus
Managing bipolar disorder and what I wish my employers understood
Google Glass didn’t succeed, but Apple’s AR glasses might
Anti-surveillance mask – creepy, ingenious, or potentially illegal?
Amy’s Ice Cream founder on Austin’s business risks and rewards #WhyAustin
Turns out a lot of people are in between introverted and extroverted
P. Terry’s founder on the booming economy in Austin #WhyAustin
Ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. National Anthem
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