Investors were not interested in Tosh Velaga's idea when he started pitching this summer. Face recognition software for stores to catch store thieves made sense in theory, but people were skeptical that it would work. So Velaga and his co-founder Igor Nefedov did what entrepreneurs do best: they turned.
"We were like," what if we reuse this for something stupid, like AI that could detect the faces of investors? "Velaga recalls.
This month, the resulting project finally landed in the Play Store. It is called Angel face, an Android app that allows users to determine if someone is a venture capitalist by taking a quick photo of their face. According to Velaga: "You just hold your phone against someone's face for a second, tap a button and their profile appears."
Velaga and Nefedov scraped photos from investors in Signal, a directory of venture capitalists in various industries, as well as Google Images. They refused to indicate how many pictures they have, although they said there were more than 1,000.
Velaga believes that the app can solve a common problem for new entrepreneurs: meeting people and talking who can finance their ideas. “Part of it is like seeing someone walking in the street in Allbirds and a swollen vest, you could be who this is? VC & # 39; s are not the most sympathetic audience and it is hard to just go upstairs and talk to them. At least now you know who they are, & he said.
When we tried AngelFace at Vox's office, the results were not impressive. The app did not recognize Casey Newton (not surprisingly) or Bill Gurley from Benchmark (rather surprisingly). But whether or not it works is almost irrelevant: peer-to-peer face recognition software is still at an early stage and it is likely to become more common as time goes on. As Velaga said, "Anyone can make this technology – the technology we use, someone could find out watching YouTube videos & # 39; s."
Today AngelFace focuses on venture capitalists in the Bay Area, although Velaga has not ruled out the possibility of expansion to other cities. He is carefully marketing the app because, as he says, "it's a slippery slope, this technology. We don't even know for sure if it's legal."
In California that is probably the case. Facebook, Google and Apple already use face recognition to detect who is in your photos, Snapchat uses it to match your face with selfie filters.
But face recognition in the public sector is more controversial. While cities such as New York and San Diego continue to use this technology in their efforts to police cities, San Francisco and Oakland have forbidden being used by law enforcement officers in the past year. Illinois has required positive permission from the user since 2008 under the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which limits the use of face recognition and biometrics.
Despite these leaps in legislation, Americans say they prefer face recognition to law enforcement officials rather than advertisers or companies. A recent Pew survey It turned out that while 56 percent trust facial recognition in the hands of the police, only 36 percent trust it in the hands of tech companies.
Adam Schwartz, senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says he considers both applications dangerous. "People expect to be able to walk around without being followed by other people," he said. "We can't change our face, it's the ultimate tracking tool."