Through a Smartphone Darkly? / by Dan Weingrod

The Swedish mobile software design company TAT, The Astonishing Tribe, recently launched an augmented reality app that stretches the boundaries of identity and personal information into the world of Phillip K. Dick.

The app, called Recognizr, runs on the Android platform and allows you to point your camera at a face and using 3D facial recognition technology it will match it to faces stored online by Polar Rose, a photo-tagging service. Once a face is recognized the app can pull up online social media profiles and even contact information if the user has authorized it. Cool stuff and only the latest apogee in the march of recognition software that has been happening inexorably in the background of smartphone development. An article in the New York Times discusses complex bar code scanning technology that allows window shoppers at a Norma Kamali store to scan a bar code through the their camera and order that little black dress online, even when the store is closed. Heck, I’m even getting a bar code for my badge at SXSW which theoretically will allow friends to scan and geo-locate me throughout the festival.

There’s a lot to be said for the new scanning technology. It will help centralize the role of the smartphone as the new personal Swiss Army knife.  It will create great opportunities and benefits for retailers and marketers. After all, a quick scan that drives to a purchase page encompasses interest and consideration in one feel swoop.

But when I first read about this I couldn’t help thinking about “A Scanner Darkly”, Richard Linklater’s film based on the novel by Phillip K. Dick. In the story an undercover police agent in the not-too-distant future ensures his anonymity by wearing a “scramble suit” that constantly mashes his features when he visits police headquarters. Considering the amount of imagery that is captured and maintained on the cloud I wonder if we all aren’t going to start wearing our own scramble suits, creating multiple custom bar codes for different situations and masking our RFID codes to maintain some privacy.