Officer with AI-powered smart glasses patrolling the streets

Chinese Authorities Employ AI-Powered Smart Glasses for Detecting Coronavirus Infections

The Chinese government is using AI-Powered smart glasses to screen residents for coronavirus. The augmented reality glasses have an inbuilt thermal imaging capability and can screen body temperatures within a safe distance of 6.6 feet (2 meters). The devices resemble a regular pair of glasses and weigh 100 grams. The use of smart glasses comes as the Chinese government eases the lockdown restrictions on Hubei province.

The company behind the AI-powered smart glasses

The Chinese AI start-up Rokid was founded by Misa Zhu Mingming, who worked as an Artificial Intelligence lead at Alibaba Holdings. The company has offices in China’s Zhejiang province in the city of Hangzhou. Rokid has research centers in San Francisco and Beijing. Currently, it maintains a research fund of about $158.3 million. It has been advertising the glasses through several Facebook posts and YouTube videos.

The extent of usage of the AI-powered smart glasses

It is not possible to estimate the extent of usage of the new AI-powered smart glasses. According to the company, the glasses can work well in airports, subways, businesses, and shopping malls as part of public safety. The South China Morning Post has reported that the security staff at Hongyuan Park, part of the Xixi Wetland preserve in Hangzhou in eastern China are currently using the AI-powered smart glasses to monitor people entering the park. The technology is also in use by security officials and highway police in Hangzhou, Huzhou, and Quzhou.

Before the release of the AI-powered smart glasses, Chinese security officials were using smart glasses that could access facial recognition and car registration data. Additionally, the officials utilized data from surveillance systems and big data networks. Using this data, the security officials assigned individuals various color codes based on their health status. The color code determined people who could travel during the ongoing crisis.

Despite facial recognition use being common in China, there are possibilities of the AI-powered smart glasses being used as a surveillance tool by the Communist government. Privacy concerns have led the World Health Organization to call for the protection of data and privacy rights as governments apply various AI technologies in fighting the disease. Despite many people doubting the actual figures of the coronavirus patients and deaths in China, the country has leveraged AI technology in containing the spread of the virus, which has slowed down in the past days.

How the AI-powered smart glasses work

The non-contact thermal augmented reality smart glasses have an infrared camera that scans heat signatures. Higher body temperature is one of the most common symptoms of coronavirus infection. The camera can check the temperature at a distance of 6.6 feet (2 meters) without coming into contact with the person. It performs this operation at just 0.5 seconds, which is way faster than infrared thermometers, which take about 2-3 seconds to complete the same operation. This speed allows the AI-powered infrared glasses to check the temperature of several hundred people within two minutes. Once a possible patient is detected, the camera makes a digital record of the person. This is possible because the camera supports facial recognition and remote collaboration of tasks.

Effectiveness of the smart glasses

Although they can potentially detect patients suffering from coronavirus, they are not always accurate. The smart glasses also fail at detecting people who have not yet exhibited the symptoms associated with COVID-19. They also check the skin temperature, which often differs from the actual body temperature. The smart glasses have also been found to make mistakes in their diagnosis. However, having the tool helps in complementing other methods of fighting the spread of the disease.

Many people in China have warmly welcomed the tool. A post made on the Chinese microblogging site, Weibo, attracted more than 7,000 likes.