IRpair and Phantom are the first-ever collections of anti-facial recognition glasses and sunglasses designed to block facial recognition, eye tracking & infrared radiation including 3D IR surveillance cameras during both day and night.
Facial recognition technology is the single biggest tool for authorities to keep an eye on suspected (and unsuspected) individuals; but thanks to Snowden leaks, it would appear that most of the victims of such technologies have been unsuspected users.
The growing use of facial recognition technology at airports in the United States to its misuse in China to track minorities; it all raises serious concerns over user privacy and in particular, just how much do authorities know about you.
For instance, in Southeast China, the police used facial recognition technology to locate and detain a suspect among a crowd of over 60,000 people.
The incident occurred at a pop concert where the popular Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung was performing, a concert attended by the suspected fugitive.
The problem is that the same technology can be used to track and oppress anyone hiding from brutal regimes.
Or take the example these Iris scanners demonstrated by Carnegie Mellon University in the US.
These scanners use iris recognition technology to identify drivers from a random image of their eye captured from their vehicle’s side mirror.
These images can be taken from a distance of 40 feet.
So what are your options?
In 2016, Scott Urban, an entrepreneur from Chicago came up with anti-facial recognition glasses “Reflectacles” to work as a defense for users against facial recognition technology.
These glasses shield the eyes from security cameras and are designed to prevent the invasion of privacy without consent or knowledge.
Now, Scott has launched two more privacy eyewear gadgets called Phantom and IRpair. One of the most prominent and unique features of these two is that they are “the first-ever collection of sunglasses designed to block facial recognition, eye tracking & infrared radiation including 3D IR surveillance cameras during both day and night.
Moreover, you cannot log into the iPhone X Face ID (day or night) with IRpair and Phantom.
Here’s how IRpair and Phantom look like:
IRpair (left) – Phantom (right)
Currently, Scott has raised $$25,472 for his project on Kickstarter.
If you want to back his project click here to check it out.
Equipped with specially designed IRlenses with optical filters, IRpair anti-surveillance glasses block facial recognition by preventing infrared radiation from passing through while natural light can pass normally.
Furthermore, IRpair blocks surveillance technology like Iris scanners, IR for mapping or illumination by turning your eye space black.
IRpair during normal visible light and during Infrared light
It is worth noting that regular sunglasses do not protect us from 3D IR facial mapping since they become clear in the presence of Infrared light. However, IRpair counters such surveillance techniques at all times.
“Since IRpair blocks infrared radiation at the lens, 3D IR facial mapping will not be able to read the critical eye measurements for a match during both day and night. Unlike regular sunglasses that become clear in the presence of IR, IRpair’s lenses turn dark black on traditional surveillance cameras using IR in low light situations,” Scott wrote.
To the casual observer, Phantoms appear to be a standard pair of glasses. They can be fitted with tinted lenses as well as prescription lenses.
The new design and focus on infrared light is a reaction to, in Urban’s mind, the changing surveillance landscape, especially as more and more mobile phones incorporate facial recognition.
But it’s not just Apple’s Face ID that relies on infrared light.
Infrared security cameras are ubiquitous. You see them at bars, corner stores, restaurants, parking lots, and on street corners.
They typically work by illuminating a dark location with IR LED lights — an effect invisible to the human eye — and then recording the resulting image with a special camera.
The Phantom frames are a response to these varying forms of surveillance.
“Infrared Radiation (IR) in the forms of 3D dot matrix mapping and laser scanning are the most accurate forms of facial recognition technology and they will soon become the most common,” Urban writes on his Kickstarter page.
“Phantom [maintains] your privacy on these systems during both day and night. They also obscure your facial data on [more traditional] 2D IR surveillance cameras in low light environments and block IR eye-tracking.”
Blocking some forms of eye-tracking is an especially interesting bonus of the glasses, as that technology has been highlighted as particularly invasive by a diverse group ranging from Microsoft to the ACLU.
All of this, it should be noted, is going on behind the scenes as far as anyone looking at your shades can tell.
By not reflecting visible light, the Phantoms are essentially indistinguishable from a standard pair of glasses to the naked eye.
This differs from the Ghost frames which, while stylish, are slightly conspicuous.
The pattern and material used to reflect visible light might stand out as a bit of a fashion choice.
It should be said, however, that over the several months I tried these glasses out in San Francisco, I didn’t feel out of place.
It’s worth noting that the Ghosts are cool.
Reflecting visible light has the side effect of screwing with any unexpected flash photography and serves as a bonus safety feature.
As an urban cyclist, having car headlights bounce off my face and back at drivers is a great way of reminding them I exist.
The Phantoms, on the other hand, are intentionally more subtle.
Other than the fact that they are a little wider than traditional glasses frames for technical reasons, no casual observer will be the wiser that you’re sporting anti-facial recognition gear.
“On traditional IR surveillance cameras, Phantom will illuminate around the eye space, denying algorithms the critical biometrics for a match,” the product description reads.
It adds that with 3D infrared mapping “the reflected IR beams from Phantom will distort the facial data to maintain your privacy.”
You can test the latter point out yourself (or, if you don’t use Face ID, have a friend or coworker do it for you). Wearing the Phantom frames essentially breaks Apple’s aforementioned facial-recognition tech, which relies on an “infrared image of your face.”
The Phantom frames also come with the optional IRlenses — lenses that prevent infrared-light cameras from seeing your eyes.
The frames launched, as initially did the Reflectacles, in the form of a Kickstarter.
Unveiled in June, the crowd-funding effort quickly surpassed its initial stated goal with a shipping date of April 20, 2020. Once the Kickstarter ends on July 24, customers will be able to pre-order the frames directly from the Reflectacles website for $142.
I was sent an early pair of the Phantoms in February, and have worn them to numerous locations around the city that have infrared security cameras. One such location allowed me to view the security footage of a friend wandering around a back stock room while wearing the Phantoms. The room was dark, and his face was slightly obscured on the security monitor.
I could still tell it was my friend, but a computer program scanning the footage for a face match might not be so successful because, according to Urban, it may misinterpret the face as a light source.
Notably, those of you envisioning some form of William Gibson’s “Ugly Shirt” should slow your roll.
Many security cameras these days record some combination of IR light and light on the visible spectrum, meaning the Phantoms don’t exactly make you invisible.
But that’s not really the point. Urban knows that his glasses are not a panacea.
With the Ghost, he warns that the distance from the facial-recognition device in question will alter the frames’ performance, and that “more complex cameras with large exposure sensors or off-axis lighting will not have the same effect.
For their part, the Phantoms are a specific response to a specific surveillance concern — so don’t count on them to facilitate your next bank robbery.
Still, with privacy threatening to become a relic of a forgotten time, those concerned about its impending death have to start pushing back somewhere. Why not here?
How Phantom looks like in a video from an IR security camera.
“Phantom may look like a regular pair of black glasses, but they are always reflecting IR from any source.”
Although the focus of both IRpair and Phantom is countering facial recognition and Infrared Radiation (IR) in the form of 3D dot matrix mapping and laser scanning, Scott has also introduced IRclip which lets you choose between IRlenses.
You can choose between IRdark and IRlight whichever shade suits you depending on the lightening condition you are in.
As previously mentioned, the project is currently on Kickstarter and I highly recommend supporting Scott in this endeavor.
There is more information along with technical analysis of IRpair and Phantom available on the Kickstarter page right now.
Remember, it’s not about “I have nothing to hide because I am doing nothing wrong… it’s about why should I be looked upon when I have done nothing wrong.”