Google is building a tool to help you detect if someone seated next to you (in a matatu) is looking at your phone

Google Electronic Screen Protector

You’ve probably been a victim.

While in a matatu or bus heading home after a busy day at work, someone seated next or behind you blatantly starts peeking at your phone, ready to ensure that they actually see what is making you smile. Usually, I give them back a stern stare just to let them know I didn’t enjoy that at all, but sometimes it’s not always easy to catch these guys in action. At times I do feel as if they are pros at what they do, but thanks to Google, it’s going to get a lot easier to catch these sneaky fellows.

In a new tool that researchers at Google have come up with, the company has a feature that will detect whenever strangers are looking at your phone. While this is one interesting tool that for sure many would love to have straight away, it is apparently still in its early stages. In fact, there is no word on when the tool will be ready for consumption by the general public.

The tool is being designed by two researchers from Google – Florian Schroff and Hee Jung Ryu – and basically, it’s meant to keep snoopers off your WhatsApp chats or Twitter timeline. You are probably asking how this tool will work. Apparently, it will take advantage of your phone’s selfie camera and some artificial intelligence to track eye movements and faces. In the event that it detects any, you will be alerted that someone is looking at your phone.

So, assuming you are enjoying those funny moments with your group mates on, say, WhatsApp, and someone seated next to you tries to crash the party, the tool will immediately launch the camera and warn you that a stranger is stealing glances at your phone. An alert message will also be sent to you with the warning “Stranger is Looking” alongside the face of the person peeking at your phone.

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To get a clearer picture of how the tool works, here is a short demo video for you to watch:

According to the two Google researchers, this tool, which they call Electronic Screen Protector, will be showcased at an upcoming event dubbed Neural Information Processing Systems Conference (NIPS), which will be held in California this coming week.

As much as I’d like to have this tool sooner than later, I am still not convinced that it will work perfectly in any condition. Nonetheless, the researchers say that the system can deliver during the day and night as well as detect a variety of poses, just in case the person peeking takes a different angle. It gets even better as the tool is insanely fast, where it only needs 2 milliseconds to detect a human gaze and 45 more to detect a face.

As pointed out earlier, this tool is still in its early stages and in fact, we cannot be sure that it will make it to mobile phones. But of course, we are keeping our fingers crossed. And you should too, if you really care about privacy.

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