pri-what-cy?

blurred_faces_google

The history of surveillance (especially in the Western hemisphere) has been very well documented. Roots for human urge for surveilling others for personal gains date back to the Egyptian era. Traces of surveillance are also found in Bible, Mahabharata, Ramayana among other historical epics.

As Keith Laidler proposes in his book Surveillance Unlimited: How We’ve Become the Most Watched People on Earth, “spying and surveillance are at least as old as civilization itself. The rise of city states and empires … meant that each needed to know not only the disposition and morale of their enemy, but also the loyalty and general sentiment of their own population.”

With Computer Vision in the best shape it has ever been and with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality getting mainstream attention, the issue of voyeurism is more critical now than ever. After the age of information on paper and information of fingertips, we are moving towards the era where we have information everywhere, and unless we learn from our mistakes during the first Industrial Revolution, we are on the destructive path of making even more gruesome mistakes in this second one.

Pri-what-sy? is a critique on the practice of (un)lawful espionage carried out by various government agencies and private corporations in the name of civilian safety and advertising respectively as well as anti-social elements for purely criminal purposes. The fact that this information is intentionally kept secret from civilians makes them all the more vulnerable to privacy thefts.

In this social experiment, subjects are asked to wear an Oculus Rift which has a webcam mounted on it. The webcam feed is sent to the HMD display in real time and face detection algorithms are used to blur out all the faces in the field of view. So, its a two-way (lack of) interaction between the subject and the general public where the people cannot see the face of the subject because she is wearing an HMD, while the subject cannot see anyone because the software doesn’t let it. The social interaction that follows is interesting to say the least.

[Video coming soon]

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