This Happened

Cyborg Vision iPhone App Uses Facial Recognition to Let You Scan Your Friends Like a Terminator

cyborg Cyborg Vision iPhone App Uses Facial Recognition to Let You Scan Your Friends Like a Terminator

TARGET ACQUIRED.

In the Venn diagram between techies and Terminator 2 fans, we’re guessing the overlap is oh, let’s say 100.00 percent. But a new iPhone app built by Silicon Alley’s Rich Cameron and Haris Amin might be the first time the two have officially merged.

Cyborg Vision, which made its App Store debut for the iPhone and iPad 2 this morning, uses the Face.com API and Facebook to let see the world around you like a cyborg assassin sent from the future. Its best trick is actually recognizing your Facebook friends and returning a red-screen in real time with their Facebook data that would make Skynet proud. Mr. Cameron and Mr. Amin, who both work at the health and fitness app DailyBurn, first developed the concept at the video hack day, where the app took first prize. They then spent weekends getting it Apple-ready.

On the phone with Betabeat last week, Mr. Amin explained how it works: When a user opens Cyborg Vision, the app requests permission to sign in with Facebook, after which it downloads info about your friends into its database. Through the phone’s camera function, you scan a friend’s picture or, if they’re sitting across from you, the actual friend. A request is sent to Facebook to “so it trains against your friends.” The image is then run through Face.com’s API, and info from the database is pushed out in real time onto your screen.

Mr. Cameron came up with the idea after the two collaborate on a slide-synching app at TechCrunch Disrupt. “I just wanted to do something that was more fun than presentation sharing—something a little less enterprise-y! We were just kind of throwing out ideas, and I threw out the idea that what if we made Terminator-vision, like it can look at somebody and recognize them and it will look like the movie and everything,” Mr. Cameron said on the phone. “We love the movies. I obviously didn’t care for the third one, I don’t think anyone does. [Ed. Agreed!] That was the event of my childhood, I feel like. It was the biggest movie of any summer.”

The two developers embedded some surprises in the app. “We hid some Easter eggs in the app, which I think you’re the only person who knows about besides me and Haris,” said Mr. Cameron. “It recognizes Arnold Schwarzenegger, even if you’re not signed into Facebook. It will recognize certain people, maybe tied to the movies, or technology. It recognizes Steve Jobs.”

Neither developer plans on quitting their day jobs, though they figure $0.99 is a fair price to pay for impressing your friends. “We’re viewing it as a parlor trick or this is a fun thing you can pull out on your friends at the bar. At the same time, it feels like the first time where facial recognition has been handed off to the consumer world where—for a dollar—you can get this on your phone and it will actually do facial recognition and identity people. It’s kind of neat,” said Mr. Cameron, whose app already has a couple 5-star reviews.

“If we make millions, that’s another story.”

Cyborg Vision from Rich Cameron on Vimeo.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com