Feb. 5, 2013 at 8:58 PM ET
The Navy is funding the development of high-tech binoculars that can ID enemies from more than 600 feet away, according to recently-released documents.
Applications of such a device are easy to imagine in a combat situation or undercover — which is why plenty of people are already working on similar systems. The company contracted to develop the binoculars, StereoVision Imaging, already has a working pair, but apparently the Navy didn't think they were good enough just yet.
As one can imagine, the farther our soldiers and sailors can keep from the enemy, the safer they'll be. So 200 meters, or around 650 feet, is what the Navy asked for. Accurately identifying a face is a complicated process, of course, and doing it from even 6 feet can be difficult, to say nothing of 650.
StereoVision's device works out to about 300 feet, but only during daylight hours. That's impressive, but still falls short — which is why the Navy is pumping an undisclosed sum into improving them over the next 15 months.
Others, like the FBI, Army, and even domestic police would certainly like such face-scanning binoculars, if StereoVision can get it working, though there's no shortage of competition. Even consumer tech companies are getting deep into facial recognition, for everything from password replacements to gaming.
Wired's Danger Room blog has some more details.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.