If you already think you’re being monitored all the time by your cell phone’s camera and microphone, know that technology is coming up with a new way to George Orwell’s 1984, but with an indirect type of detection — via Wi-Fi. Responsible for the research is Meta, the company famous for owning Facebook, which used artificial intelligence (AI) to use the wireless internet as a kind of radar or echolocator.
- AI monitors cameras to find out when a photo was taken for Instagram
- Google wants to track when you snore and cough in your sleep
The method, called DensePose, combines machine learning with architecture and Wi-Fi signals to scan 24 different points on the body, returning an image of the detected humans. According to Meta itself, the tool would be a real-time way for Facebook to map human pixels in 2D and convert the information into a 3D model, based on the surface of the body.
Privacy and controversies
Open source, DensePose generates a silhouette of the detected people, computationally decoded from the phase and amplitude of the wireless internet signals. It is worth remembering that the UV coordinates actually generate an estimate of the human pose at the time of detection, which, although achieving a performance close to image-based methods, is not the same thing.
According to the researchers, the low cost, accessibility and privacy would be the great advantages of the system. The term “privacy” is used because the signal does not detect faces or images of people, even if it generates an approximation of the body. Other spatial scanning methods, such as LiDAR, rely on images and are much more expensive.
The initiative is one more to appear in the list of research and development using AI, which brought things like ChatGPT, a text generator with machine learning, and Lensa, a photo modifier and generator. As they are based on collecting information from users, the technologies have been the subject of debates by consumers and scientists alike, raising questions of privacy, data intrusion and improper monitoring. DensePose, likewise, must not escape scrutiny and controversy.
There’s no telling when the tool will reach commercial or widespread use by companies like the ones that brought the apps and websites mentioned above. Meta, however, has been working with the development of technology since 2018.