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Facial recognition is on the rise, but artificial intelligence is already being trained to recognize humans in new ways — including gait detection and heartbeat sensors


Surveillance china body

  • Facial recognition has made headlines this year for the rapid rise in companies and government agencies using it for tracking and surveillance — but it's not the only AI-driven surveillance technology.
  • Emerging technologies can recognize humans and track people's location by detecting their heartbeat, walking gait, and even microbial traces left behind by skin cells or sweat.
  • More far-flung ideas formulated by researchers include a device to detect emotions using radio waves and a biometric car seat with butt-detection software.
  • While some of the technologies have only surfaced in academic research, others are already being implemented by global military powers like the US and China.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

For private companies and government agencies trying to track peoples' movements, technology is making the task increasingly easy.

Facial recognition and analysis are becoming increasingly popular surveillance tools — the technology was rolled out in airports across the world this summer as a tool for verifying flyers' identity, and is widely used by police departments for tracking suspected criminals.

Privacy-minded activists and lawmakers are now hitting back at facial recognition. The technology has been banned for law-enforcement purposes across California, and a similar bill is being weighed in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, artists and researchers have begun to develop clothes designed to thwart algorithms that detect human faces.

But emerging technology presents alternate means of identifying and tracking humans beyond facial recognition. These methods, also driven by artificial intelligence, detect the presence of humans using devices ranging from lasers to WiFi networks.

The vast range of biometric data that technology can register makes regulation difficult. Meanwhile, some of the emerging surveillance technology is already being embraced by military powers like the US and China. 

Here's a rundown of emerging technology that can detect humans and track their location.

SEE ALSO: The biggest tech scandals of the 2010s, from NSA spying to Boeing's deadly crashes to WeWork

Gait recognition identifies humans in video footage by detecting their stride, and the software is already being used by the Chinese government to monitor people.

Gait recognition analyzes how people move as they walk, including stride length and the angle of their arms. Watrix, a Chinese company that has developed a version of the software being piloted by Chinese police, claims it is 94% accurate.

The Pentagon is piloting gait-recognition tech that identifies people's walk based on the movements of their smartphone.

In a different iteration of gait recognition, the Pentagon is reportedly testing software that would enable a smartphone to identify who's carrying it based on their walking pattern, according to the Washington Post. The technology could theoretically be used to quickly deactivate government agents' smartphones if they are stolen.

Researchers are also developing gait-recognition tech that could identify pedestrians using sensors in the floor.

Researchers at the University of Manchester developed software that can use "floor-only sensor data" to identify specific people based on the rhythm of their walk without the aid of any visuals.

The Pentagon has commissioned a laser that can identify people by their heartbeat from 200 yards away.

The device, known as the Jetson, uses laser vibrometry to detect "surface movement" generated by a person's heartbeat, according to the MIT Technology Review. The laser works through clothes, and can match heartbeats to a database of "cardiac signatures" to identify individuals.

Researchers developed a technique to turn home WiFi devices like Amazon Echo and Google Nest into "adversarial motion sensors."

In a paper entitled "Et Tu Alexa?," researchers from the University of Chicago and University of California at Santa Barbara wrote that hackers can easily use WiFi devices in peoples' homes to detect when humans are moving around based on WiFi interference. The findings mean WiFi can be used as a surveillance tool to detect whether someone is physically located inside a specific structure. However, the detection technology is not capable of distinguishing between different humans, or even between humans and large animals.

An MIT researcher suggests that WiFi signals could be combined with heartbeat detection and AI to remotely track people's emotions.

The technology is still mostly theoretical, but an MIT researcher developed a concept for artificial intelligence software that can track users' motions and heart rate using wireless sensors and predict their emotional state accordingly. 

Algorithms could track people using the 36 million microbial cells per hour that each human emits.

Algorithms could potentially be turned towards tracking microbial cells — bacteria that lives inside our bodies — that people constantly emit, according to Wired. A 2015 study found that the microbial cells can be effectively used to identify specific individuals with up to 80% confidence.

Scientists even developed a prototype for a biometric car seat capable of butt-recognition.

Tokyo-based engineers developed a car seat that recognizes the shape of users' rear and their weight, according to Wired. The technology is theoretically meant to prevent car theft, but has not yet hit the market — however, it illustrates the sheer range of biometric data that can potentially be gauged by artificial intelligence.

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