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Face recognition, voice identification, and augmented reality can enrich the mobile experience - but they can also be abused in scary ways
Mood and voice recognition: We know how you feel
Fujitsu and Nagoya University have announced a technology capable of "reading" certain moods and intentions. Specifically, the technology aims to quash over-the-phone phishing scams by picking up on key words from the perpetrator (e.g. "indebtedness" and "compensation") and by measuring the voice and pitch of the victim. If enough flags go up, you get a scam alert.
Using voice recognition and analyzing voice patterns in the name of stopping crime is pretty cool. However, imagine a bad guy using it while trying to sell you snake oil, being able to change his pitch on the fly as his phone tells him whether you are calm, distressed, defensive, or what have you.
Environmental tracking: We know what you're doing
Google secured a patent this week for a technology capable of determining not just where you are but what you're doing based on ambient sounds, temperature, and other environmental conditions. So, for example, your might call Google's 411 service - and thanks to the sounds of the crowd and an announcer, Google knows you're attending a baseball game on a cool autumn night. Google could then serve up a targeted ad, such as a coupon for dinner near the stadium or a deal on sweatshirts at the souvenir stand if the weather drops below 60 degrees. But put to ill use, this technology is great for knowing where you go and what you do when you get there.
Augmented reality: We see what you see.
The idea behind augmented reality is, you point a camera-enabled device at something and instantly get information about it. With Autonomy Aurasma, for example, you could point a device at a still photo from a sporting event. The device could identify the scene and start playing a video clip. Google, meanwhile, will reportedly release Google Glasses through which you could, for example, look down a city street and see digital details overlaid of the screen (e.g. street names, areas of interest, or directions).
Augmented reality has cool applications for entertainment, education, and business. But with it you're pretty much letting a third party "see" in real time where you are, what you're doing, who you're with, etc.
Five very cool (but kinda creepy) mobile technologies
The mobile technology business is booming, with cool new applications and services continually emerging to users stay connected, informed, productive, entertained – or, well, distracted.
But with great mobile technology comes great responsibility (apologies for Spider-Man). Some of the innovations coming down the pike rank high on the Creep-o-Meter, in that they potentially equip malicious entities – both individuals and organizations – with scary new ways to stalk, scam, and otherwise exploit victims. There are so many cool applications for augmented reality, for entertainment, educational, and professional purposes. But consider all the data you're handing over in exchange for that instant information – where you are, who you're with, what you are looking for – and the creepy factor skyrockets.
GPS tracking: We know where you are
Mall owners faced public outcry last year after announcing plans to discretely track shopper via their personal mobile devices. The purpose was to glean a precise view of customer foot traffic, which in turn could help retailers improve the layout of their businesses. The property owners postponed the project after being accused of violating privacy.
This technology is be cool in that it provides detailed, accurate, yet anonymous data on foot traffic, which could be used for designing better laid-out stores, stadiums, city streets, etc. Unfortunately, it turns creepy fast when you consider that a company could track you anonymously based on your device, collecting identifying information that could be sold or stolen.
Face recognition: We know what you look like
Companies have sought to develop reliable face-recognition software for some time now. Facebook, for example, uses facial recognition to identify your Friends in photos. More recently, a startup called Faced.me announced a technology through which you take a user's picture, then the software will identify that person in about a second. After that, you can connect you with that user on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Used securely and prudently, this sort of face-recognition technology is pretty cool. But this turns creepy quickly when a tool for quickly connecting with someone by snapping their picture turns into a tool for secretly and quickly learning someone's identity from a single photo, whether found on the Web or taken candidly with a camera.