"Robocop" just got a little more real. That is, a futuristic technotopia is now in beta testing, and wherein law enforcement officers are equipped with high-tech, heat-sensing, face-recognizing technology right in front of their eyeballs.
That technology, of course is Google Glass — the wearable computers that look like eyeglasses but display data on command in the user's field of vision. And those law enforcement officers are the New York Police Department, who are reportedly testing Google Glass as a tool for catching criminals.
Hey, maybe the New York police will use Google Glass to catch people driving while using Google Glass!
VentureBeat reports that the NYPD is testing Google Glass as a law enforcement tool. Details are scarce because police don't like broadcasting their crime-stopping strategies to the media at large. But there are indications that Google Glass would at least be used for officers on foot patrol.
Funny, usually it's the police telling me to turn off that camera or recording device. That shoe may be on the other foot soon.
"We signed up, got a few pairs of the Google glasses, and we’re trying them out, seeing if they have any value in investigations, mostly for patrol purposes," an NYPD rep told VentureBeat. "We’re looking at them, you know, seeing how they work."
The civil liberties risks are a little scary. Facial recognition technology could theoretically be used to simply grab suspects out of a crowd. Even wrongful arrests could be recorded and made public, causing embarrassment for the wrongful arrestee.
That said, the app potential is phenomenal. Remember when Robocop was able to shoot a criminal right in the family jewels, because Robocop had bulls-eye targeting capabilities built into his eyesight? A targeting app could appear in the Google Glass field of vision for a police officer when engaged in gunfire, making the officer's shot much more accurate and risk-free.
The NYPD is only testing "a few pairs," so this is not a large-scale program. And Google Glass is not even available to the public yet, and won't be until late this year.
Still, if the tool works then we're likely to see more police departments ordering and using Google Glass. This would set off all manner of arguments regarding ethics, cost and privacy.
The best argument in favor of police wearing Google Glass may be the same argument for police to have any weapon or tool — because sometimes they'll be up against criminals who have Google Glass capabilities, too.