Are We Being Watched by ‘RoboCop’ Sunglasses?

Have you ever wanted to own a pair of sunglasses capable of helping you pick up strange faces in a crowd? How about shades that help you find your car in the mall parking lot after eight consecutive hours of Christmas shopping? Well, police in Brazil have been using a piece of technology since 2011 that most of us have only dreamed about: ‘RoboCop’ sunglasses.

Six years ago, police in Brazil were issued new sunglasses with built-in technology that would help them identify criminals milling about in a crowd. The glasses are equipped with a miniature camera and network connectivity to tie them into a central computer database. The camera has a potential range of 12 miles.

While police scan a crowd, the cameras embedded in the sunglasses are sending images back to a central computer at a rate of 400 per second. Back at the data center, computer software can analyze up to 46,000 points per face and match that data against an existing database capable of storing up to 13 million faces.

Tying everything together is a small screen embedded in the glasses to let officers know if someone wanted by police is identified in the crowd. Police can then investigate further.

Bringing the Future to Life

In the six years since Brazilian police forces have had the high-tech glasses, they have been used during a number of high profile events to keep the public safe. They were used during both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, and local police have donned the glasses for other public events, like domestic soccer games, as well.

What makes the sunglasses so fascinating is that they are bringing the future to life right now. Indeed, the sunglasses were dubbed ‘RoboCop’ sunglasses as a nod to the 1987 Peter Weller film about a futuristic cop who was put back together using robotics after nearly being killed in the line of duty. One of RoboCop’s main features was a visual display that did much the same thing the real-life sunglasses do now.

Discussions of the high-tech sunglasses often lead to questions about the Google Glass project and Apple’s promised augmented reality glasses. The former did not fare well when first released a few years back, but Google did restart the dormant program in 2017 to release the Explorer edition of Google Glass.

As for Apple, they said as late as October 2017 that their augmented reality technology would not be ready for prime time in the near future. Apple does not want to release its high-tech glasses until they are confident the quality matches other Apple products.

Just the Sunglasses Please

While all this is going on, there are companies like Utah-based Olympic Eyewear focusing only on sunglasses themselves. There’s no technology, no cameras or screens, and no wi-fi connectivity. Maybe there will be a day in the future when all our sunglasses are built with on-board cameras and computer screens to help us make more sense of the world around us but, for now, sunglasses are still about protecting the eyes.

For now, all we want is a good pair of sunglasses that block out harmful UV rays without costing a small fortune. We want good quality sunglasses that will not break the first time we accidentally drop them on the pavement. And yes, we want designer shades that look good. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Let the police have their high-tech sunglasses with built-in cameras and connectivity. The rest of us will be happy with a good pair of wayfarers or aviators that get the job done.