Wearable computing, augmented reality to be scrutinized at conference

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Wearable computing, augmented reality to be scrutinized at conference

Internet-connected eyeglasses and similar technologies will soon be on the market, but their benefits and dangers are little understood. University of Toronto Engineering Professor Steve Mann hopes to change that at a groundbreaking conference at U of T in June 2013.

Mann is a pioneering researcher in the fields of wearable computing and "augmediated reality" (AR). He’s bringing together renowned experts in wearable technology, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and privacy to discuss both the potential and the pitfalls of these technologies. Speakers will include renowned artificial intelligence researcher Marvin Minsky, futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil, legendary computer scientist Gordon Bell, privacy expert Helen Nissenbaum and American Civil Liberties Union president Susan N. Herman.

The conference, the annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS), is called "The Social Implications of Wearable Computing and Augmediated Reality in Everyday Life." It will be held at U of T Engineering’s Bahen Centre for Information Technology, June 27-29, 2013.

Papers on topics such as surveillance and sousveillance in society, humanistic intelligence, artificial intelligence, augmediated reality, geolocation mapping, Web 3.0, biofeedback, privacy, security, as well as legal, moral and ethical issues will be accepted through the conference website until February 28, 2013, said Mann, who is the general chair of the conference.

Known as the "father of wearable computing," Mann has been inventing, designing, building and wearing computer vision systems for more than 35 years, and has also written extensively on the legal, social and ethical implications of such technology. Among his inventions is the EyeTap, which he described as a device which allows the eye itself to function as both a display and a camera.

"The environment around us is becoming ‘smarter’. Soon, there will be a camera in nearly every streetlight to do better occupancy sensing, and ultimately a camera in every light fixture," Mann says. "Many appliances and everyday products, such as automatic flush toilets, faucets and sensor-operated showers, are starting to use more sophisticated camera-based, computer-vision technologies."

Wearable technology and AR are not something from science fiction or the distant future. They need to be discussed today, Mann says. He noted that Google has already beta-tested internet-connected glasses similar to the EyeTap. 

"Soon your built-in, 3-D camera in your eyeglasses will be able to display onto your retina the names of people it recognizes, and then let you see through walls and buildings to show you your friends sitting in a nearby restaurant," says Mann. "Then it reads your brainwaves, and if it senses you want to join them, it guides you to them." 

He adds: "In a world of smart things like smart lights, smart toilets, smart grids, smart meters, smart roads, and the like, what happens when you have 'smart people' -- when you put sensors on people? What do we make of the growing numbers of businesses like department stores and restaurants that prohibit cameras, yet display QR codes that require cameras to read and understand? These are some of the things we’ll discuss at ISTAS. We're very excited and proud to host this conference."

For more information about the conference, go to http://veillance.me .

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