Unintended, malicious and evil applications of augmented reality
by Gregory Conti, Edward Sobiesk, Paul Anderson, Steven Billington, Alex Farmer, Cory Kirk, Patrick Shaffer, and Kyle Stammer - Tuesday, 12 February 2013.
The final category, and the hardest to predict, are entirely new applications which have little similarity to current applications. These threats will lean heavily on new capabilities and have the potential to revolutionize misuse. In particular, these applications will spring from widespread use, always on sensing, high speed network connectivity to cloud based data sources, and, perhaps most importantly, the integration of an ever present heads-up display, that current cell phones and tablets lack.

Regardless from which category new threats emerge, we assume that human nature and its puerile and baser aspects will remain constant, acting as a driving force for the inception of numerous malicious or inappropriate applications.


This section lists potential misuse applications for augmented reality. Of course, we do not mean to imply that Google or any other company would endorse or support these applications, but such applications will likely be in our augmented future nonetheless.

Persistent cyber bullying

In the world defined by Google Glasses users are given unparalleled customizability of digital information overlaid on top of the physical environment. Through these glasses this information gains an anchor into the physical space and allows associations that other individuals can also view, share, vote on, and interact with just as they would via comments on YouTube, Facebook, or restaurant review sites. Persistent virtual tagging opens up the possibility of graffiti or digital art overlaid upon physical objects, but only seen through the glasses.

However, hateful or hurtful information could just as easily be shared among groups (imagine what the local fraternity could come up with) or widely published to greater audiences just as it can today, but gains an increasing degree of severity when labeling becomes a persistent part of physical interactions.

Imagine comments like “Probably on her period” or “Her husband is cheating” being part of what appears above your head or in a friend’s glasses, without your knowledge. Such abuse isn’t limited to adult users. The propensity for middle and high school age youth to play games that embarrass others is something to be expected. The bright future predicted by Google may be tainted by virtual “kick me” signs on the backs of others which float behind them in the digital realm.

Lie detection and assisted lying

Augmented reality glasses likely will include lie detection applications that monitor people and look for common signs of deception. According to research by Frank Enos of Columbia University, the average person performs worse than chance at detecting lies based on speech patterns and automated systems perform better than chance. Augmented reality can exploit this.

The glasses could conduct voice stress analysis and detect micro-expressions in the target’s face such as eye dilation or blushing. Micro-expressions are very fleeting, occurring in 1/15 of a second, beyond the capabilities of human perception. However, augmented reality systems could detect these fleeting expressions and help determine those attempting to hide the truth. An implication is that people who use this application will become aware of most lies told to them. It could also provide a market for applications that help a person lie.


Gamblers, students, and everyday people will likely use augmented reality to gain an unfair advantage in games of chance or tests of skill. Gamblers could have augmented reality applications that will count cards, assist in following the “money card” in Three Card Monte, or provide real-time odds assessments. Students could use future cheating applications to look at exam questions and immediately see the answers.


Harnessing artificial intelligence to build an army of virtual analysts

PatternEx, a startup that gathered a team of AI researcher from MIT CSAIL as well as security and distributed systems experts, is poised to shake up things in the user and entity behavior analytics market.

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