AVG camera-confusing glasses fool facial recognition

The AVG Privacy Glasses concept beams out infrared light to baffle smartphone cameras and stop you making a spectacle of yourself.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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If ever there was a face that needed to be obscured, this is surely it... Andrew Hoyle/CNET

BARCELONA -- It seems like everywhere you go these days there's a camera all up in your grill, whether it's a paparazzi lens, a CCTV state snooper or the millenials at the next table on their umpteenth selfie. So AVG has come up with a pair of camera-confusing glasses that thwart photographic invasion of your face.

Security software developers AVG showed off the privacy glasses here at Mobile World Congress, the annual trade show where the industry gathers to show off its latest phones, tablets, wearables and other mobile-related ephemera. The AVG specs aren't a real working consumer product yet, they're simply a concept, and a fairly simple one.

The glasses beam out infrared light (left) and confuse a smartphone camera (right). Andrew Hoyle/CNET/AVG

The frame of the eyewear is studded with infrared LEDs, continually beaming out invisible IR light. Invisible to the human eye, that is; but that IR light messes with the infrared filters employed by smartphone cameras. As a result, the camera's facial recognition can't work out that it's looking at a face. And it can't recognise your face to automatically tag you.

The IR light shining from the glasses also create weird distortions in the final image, partially obscuring your face. If a flash is employed, things get even worse for the photographer because the front of the glasses are covered in a reflective coating that creates even more face-obscuring glare.

You'd probably have to be seriously devoted to the principle of personal privacy -- or on the run -- to walk around wearing glasses like these all the time. But it's certainly a novel idea for taking back a bit of personal space in these ever-connected times of surveillance and security.

Barcelona braces for Mobile World Congress 2015 (pictures)

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