University of South Carolina

Professor developing Google Glass app

By Jeff Stensland,, 803-777-3686

Imagine slipping on a pair of special glasses outside a club and being able to identify who’s got extra tickets for the concert simply by looking around. Once inside, you scan the crowd and find friends and acquaintances from afar, even when their backs are turned.

If the notion sounds far-fetched, consider that Google is already investing in technology right here at the University of South Carolina that could make scenarios like these a reality. USC researcher Srihari Nelakuditi, an associate professor in the College of Engineering and Computing, is a recipient of a Google Faculty Research Award and is developing the app for Google Glass with fellow researchers from Duke University.

How the app, called InSight, works is highly technical. It uses “spatiograms” gleaned from smartphone use to develop a “fashion fingerprint” of the device’s owner based on his clothing and location. This information can then be shared with other users, allowing those wearing Google Glass technology to identify, and even communicate virtually, with others.

The InSight project, unveiled earlier this month, is already getting plenty of attention from techies and privacy advocates alike, with some worrying about potential misuse and the larger societal implications of loss of anonymity.

Nelakuditi says the debate is a good thing.

“We are aware of the privacy concerns with this kind of technology. That’s something we thought a lot about and that’s the reason (InSight) is designed as it is,” he said.

Unlike existing facial recognition technology that gets stored, identification through InSight is temporary—just shut off the app, change clothes and go back to being anonymous. “It’s something you have to opt-in to,” said Nelakuditi, adding that the researchers intentionally avoided development of more permanent markers, like an individual’s gait.

InSight also is much better at identification since it doesn’t require a front view of a person’s face and utilizes multiple data points to make a match. Early testing is showing accuracy rates of above 90 percent.

It’s not yet clear when Google Glass will start hitting the consumer market, but they could roll out as early as this year. Nelakuditi says whether InSight is a central feature of Google Glass or not, he already sees benefits from the project.

 “There has been a lot of interest among students, and I think this will help with recruitment to the program. Students want to do research, yes, but they also want to work on something that’s cool,” he said.

How it works:

--InSight app gathers your image throughout the day as you use your mobile device.

--Advanced technology analyzes your clothing patterns and colors and, combined with your location, work to create to a unique “fingerprint” for you.

--Others wearing Google Glass, which is equipped with virtual reality technology, can identify you based on that fingerprint.

--In addition to identification, InSight app users may also communicate with each other with text messages.

Posted: 03/22/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 04/01/13 @ 8:35 AM | Permalink