Chinese AI Company Can Identify People Based on How They Walk...Just Like 'Mission Impossible'

Wednesday, 07 November 2018 - 12:45PM
Technology
Artificial Intelligence
Wednesday, 07 November 2018 - 12:45PM
Chinese AI Company Can Identify People Based on How They Walk...Just Like 'Mission Impossible'
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Composite from Pixabay
If you thought burning off your fingerprints, hiding your face, and shaving your head was enough to evade identification by the authorities, get ready for this one: a Chinese company called Watrix has created an artificial intelligence program that's able to identify people based solely on the way they walk (their 'gait'). And no, you can't fool it by imitating someone from Monty Python's Ministry for Silly Walks.

You may have thought 'gait analysis' was just one of those weirdly elaborate security measures Mission Impossible 5 made up to throw at Tom Cruise, but Watrix recently obtained $14.5 in funding to accelerate the technology, which is being groomed for use by the Chinese government. According to Haung Yongzhen, the CEO of Watrix: "You don't need people's cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity. Gait analysis can't be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we're analyzing all the features of an entire body." Huang claims the technology has a 94% accuracy rate.

Watrix represents one of the first attempts to bring gait recognition technology to a commercial market, which is currently focused on biometric security methods like face-scanning. One of the downsides of identifying faces, however, is that it requires high-quality images, while gait recognition can be used with regular surveillance camera footage. Both of these methods is part of a growing biometrics toolbox governments can use to recognize people in more complex ways. Google's DeepMind team, for example, recently announced that they were able to identify people based on their height, gender, and the the color of their shirt.

Of course, all of these biometric identification technologies fit in quite nicely with China's increasing emphasis on tight social control, which will soon include a widespread 'social credit' system. "Using biometric recognition to maintain social stability and manage society is an unstoppable trend," says Shi Shusi, a Chinese columnist. "It's great business."

And according to Mark Nixon, a gait recognition expert at the University of Southampton, most people don't fully understand how effective this new technology can be. "People still don't recognize they can be recognized by their gait, whereas everybody knows you can be recognized by your face. We believe you are totally unique in the way you walk."

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