Sometimes it seems like the advancement of technology knows no bounds. Unfortunately, with such incredible milestones comes great pitfalls. The most controversial pitfall being privacy.
Last year we wrote about the Project KOVR Anti-Surveillance coat that we came across at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. It was a coat that had the ability to block every in and outgoing signal. Designed to give an individual the power to prevent the tracing of their everyday tech devices, the coat has the ability to shield bank cards and make mobile untraceable. As intriguing as a coat there is a new innovation in town courtesy of Berlin based artist Adam Harvey.
How Does HyperFace Work?
Working in partnership with Hyphen-Labs, Harvey has unveiled a clothing line designed to confuse facial recognition technology and hand privacy back to the wearer. The main objective of his collection is all about fighting back against the commercial use of facial recognition. He has achieved this by using a new textiles strategy called Hyperface. The strategy behind the textile is simple, by applying seemingly random patterns to clothing results in the appearance thousands of recognizable faces which in turn could overwhelm computer systems.
“His collection is all about fighting back against the commercial use of facial recognition.”
Breaking it down for us, Harvey explains,
“HyperFace works by providing maximally activated false faces based on ideal algorithmic representations of a human face. These maximal activations are targeted for specific algorithms. The prototype above is specific to OpenCV’s default frontalface profile. Other patterns target convolutional nueral networks and HoG/SVM detectors. The technical concept is an extension of earlier work on CV Dazzle. The difference between the two projects is that HyperFace aims to alter the surrounding area (ground) while CV Dazzle targets the facial area (figure). In camouflage, the objective is often to minimize the difference between figure and ground. HyperFace reduces the confidence score of the true face (figure) by redirecting more attention to the nearby false face regions (ground).”
Conceptually, HyperFace recognizes that completely concealing a face to facial detection algorithms remains a technical and aesthetic challenge. Instead of seeking computer vision anonymity through minimizing the confidence score of a true face (i.e. CV Dazzle), HyperFace offers a higher confidence score for a nearby false face by exploiting a common algorithmic preference for the highest confidence facial region. In other words, if a computer vision algorithm is expecting a face, give it what it wants.
On his clothes line Harvey shared that the Hyperface project has been designed to “overload an algorithm with what it wants, oversaturating an area with faces to divert the gaze of the computer”. He adds “My projects are motivated by concerns about how computer vision will be used to extract knowledge with the cooperation or consent of an individual.”
To the Harvey, facial recognition technology “poses a significant threat to privacy” and intrudes into our lives. Driven to exploit the algorithmic preference, Harvey has found a way of tricking the facial recognition system. Note, the garment does not make you invisible per say, it’s intention is to instead camouflage you in specific situations.
“It doesn’t make you invisible per say, but it’s intention is to camouflage you in specific situations.”
In the past Harvey designed Stealth Wear, a collection of counter surveillance clothes which he said helped wearers hide from thermal imaging and drones. Now his latest project, first presented at an event organized by the Chaos Computer Club in Hamburg, Germany in 2016, Harvey hopes to help raise awareness about the potentially “creepiness of a technology”.
Harvey encourages people to “modify the environment around you, whether it’s someone next to you, whether you’re wearing it, maybe around your head or in a new way.” Although I personally champion such a collection, I do wonder whether HyperFace textile can be labelled smart textiles. Does creating a specific design pattern on textile constitute it smart? I would love to pick his brain about this and maybe even try out his finished project for a FashNerd review. We will try and make this happen, so watch this space folks. Otherwise, if you’re interested in purchasing one of the first commercially available HyperFace textiles, please add yourself to their mailing list at Undisclosed.studio