As we get older, the phenomenon becomes more familiar: looking at someone who's getting attention at a large gathering of famous people, and wondering aloud, "Who in the hell even is that?"
Well, U.K.-based Sky News wants to make sure you wonder no more. The network recently announced that it will use an AI-based facial recognition software during the broadcast of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19th.
Now, as guests arrive, their names and some background information will appear on the broadcast. No more time wasted discerning the blue bloods from the peasants.
The software is powered by Amazon’s Rekognition, a cloud-based machine learning tool that the company says can detect, track, and analyze faces, including those of celebrities. Using this celebrity-spotting AI is cheaper than paying for a human broadcaster to research and speak to each guest as they arrive. Because if the royal wedding will be anything, it will be budget-conscious.
On one hand, celebrities probably understand that they’re going to be on camera, their appearances admired and nitpicked by adoring fans on both sids of the Pond, especially at such a high-profile event.
But by replacing a human reporter with AI makes the whole thing a just bit less, you know, personal.
Oh, and there are still questions about the privacy implications of using artificial intelligence-based surveillance on people who may not have been informed of it, and sharing that surveillance with anyone who downloads Sky News’ app. According to the Verge, many of these questions have not yet been answered, if the tech companies and Sky News have thought about them at all.
Also unclear: what this means for those aforementioned peasants. Sure, maybe the average viewer who just wants to see Meghan Markle’s dress doesn’t care so much about them, but the technology companies powering the broadcast probably do. Will they be unwitting test subjects that help train facial recognition and tracking algorithms? In this era of ever-increasing privacy concerns, will their identities be protected?
Ultimately, broadcasting a royal wedding via some puffed up, artificially-intelligent surveillance software seems appropriate for a time in which digital privacy is a long-gone privilege. It’s almost a relief to see an AI panopticon being built for something so frivolous.