Lighthouse AI’s security camera knows who you are, and when you’re home

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Camera maker Lighthouse AI, a startup based in Palo Alto founded by Google and former students of Stanford, is in a difficult situation. We live in a time when phrases such as "machine learning" and "neural networks" are used as buzzwords, are used seriously to talk about the modest gains of self-learning software and strategically as the ambiguous special sauce that helps a product to be separated. But Lighthouse says it has the experience and advantages of the product to offer a truly intelligent home security camera, even one that can remain competitive with the software of the Silicon Valley giants, most of which have large laboratories. of research of IA.
There is another problem, too. A security camera is a Spartan device, designed primarily to perform only one task: to show a video feed in real time from a certain location, with a registered backup to boot. Do you need an AI vision system for your home? Is this camera really better than any of the countless other security cameras connected to the Internet already available? These are crucial questions, and they underpin if Lighthouse is worth its price of $ 299 and its subscription rate of $ 10 per month.

The Lighthouse camera is a 1080p RGB video camera with a built-in 3D sensor, speaker, microphone and siren. That means you will record what you see in high definition 24 hours a day, with an accumulation of up to 30 days for those who subscribe to the company's $ 10 per month cloud service. The camera does not have a zoom function, and it does not rotate mechanically, which is inconvenient for consumers who are primarily concerned with live surveillance or for those who are concerned about smart thieves who bypass the system. However, most consumer security cameras, including the Amazon and Nest models, do not rotate, although the Nest Cam IQ comes with a 12x digital zoom.
The Lighthouse camera has night vision, and also has a two-way speaker, so it can be used to communicate with people who have been invited, such as friends and family, to access the camera through the Lighthouse mobile application . The application is also used to control all aspects of the camera, from controlling live transmission to motion detection and unknown pings of the face to obtain daily summaries of the activity. The application manages additional profiles for trusted members, as well as for guests such as babysitters and dog walkers who can be excluded from activity pings during certain periods of time during the week. The application also has a natural language component, so you can create custom pings or request daily summaries and activity checks by simply speaking the command.

Image: Lighthouse

Unlike other security camera manufacturers that over time have integrated AI's advances in their products, Lighthouse's argument is that it is an AI company built from scratch. That means that all aspects of the product were taken into account taking into account the AI, and what the field of computer vision allows the company to implement from the perspective of the product. With the Lighthouse $ 10 a month subscription, which can be canceled for life with a one-time fee of $ 200, consumers get a world-class facial recognition and movement detection system.
Similar only in sophistication to perhaps Nest owned by Google, which depends on the extensive system of recognition of objects and face of artificial intelligence, the Lighthouse system is able to differentiate between inorganic movement (cars, trees, etc.) and organic movement (pets, adults, children). You can also draw a line between your cat or dog and your spouse, since Lighthouse says he pre-trained his algorithms to know the difference between an animal and a human being.
Going further, from the moment you plug in the Lighthouse camera, you begin to build a database of facial data. With a little user information, you can train the Lighthouse camera to recognize people. That means pressing the "label faces" option in the mobile application and assigning identities to several people that the camera captures in its video feed. Over time, the camera will learn who is familiar and who is not, and will personalize notifications accordingly.

None of this would be so useful if it were not for the Lighthouse ping system, which allows you to configure mobile alerts for various scenarios, almost all of which can incorporate the facial recognition system. For example, you can create activity notifications, such as "Tell me if you see someone who does not recognize when the main user is out of the house." This way, the camera will not send you a notification if it detects, say, your roommate, but it will do so if you see a friend of your roommate you have not seen before.
Notably, pings can also be due to the absence of activity, such as "Tell me if you do not see someone enter the house between 3PM and 5PM." That way, if you are a parent and normally expect your child to get off the bus and return home between those hours, you can rest easy knowing that a notification will be sent as long as the camera does not see what it is supposed to do.
To make sure that the camera does not start pinging all the time, Lighthouse allows you to add people in additional profiles in the mobile application, so that that person is excluded from the pings that specify the movement of unrecognized people, in front of the movement of familiar faces. You can also invite people to the application, so you can give control and direct video backup access to your spouse or another family member. Like Nest products, the Lighthouse application can manage multiple cameras simultaneously.
You can not talk about Lighthouse without talking about the manufacturer of cameras for the intelligent home with which it competes mainly: Nest. The smart company, now part of Google after being added back to the search giant's hardware team, launched its first series of artificial intelligence cameras with the Nest Cam IQ line, an evolution of the product family that it acquired when it bought the Dropcam camera manufacturer. For more information about the Nest Cam IQ, see our opinion last summer.
Leaving aside the availability of the Nest Cam IQ line, and its similar facial recognition and motion detection systems, the Lighthouse system is remarkable in its ability to learn over time and adapt to the data it collected and easily annotated. by hand. Although I personally do not own a pet or live in a large house with children, every aspect of the Lighthouse ping system worked as designed and even in overcrowded areas like the corner desk that I installed next to The Verge's office in San Francisco. The Lighthouse camera saw more than a dozen people passing it on any given day, and I was able to try a variety of ping.
The Lighthouse camera is able to distinguish between your cat and your child
Not once did they alert me to a false positive or negative, and the camera seems quite sophisticated to differentiate between people, even when someone's face was slightly obscured. Lighthouse says it can track trusted profiles for friends and family when the person is on his back because he uses the presence of the person's phone with the installed mobile application to verify the identity, in addition to the existing facial data. However, I realized that previously written applications of the application, in the "ask" tab of things like pets and children, yielded incorrect results, where the top of the head or shoulders of people were recorded as animals or small children. It seems that for those functions of Lighthouse, you must train the software with some examples before it can be really useful.
Considering that I do not live in a bigger house with a family, or feel the need to spy on my roommates, I can not say that the Lighthouse has had a substantial effect on my quality of life. It's definitely an orderly gadget, and it's been a lot of fun to waste time and play with AI-focused settings that help you identify and track my coworkers. (My colleagues did not seem to appreciate this).
But it is worth mentioning here that this is a bold and unknown territory, even within the confines of your home or apartment. There are privacy implications to give a company the ability to see, hear and analyze data from its most intimate settings. Lighthouse has a clear privacy policy, which you can read here, which states that it does not store, access or sell visual or audio data that is in any way identifiable. And much of the information used to identify people is handled by the AI ​​system and is not available to Lighthouse employees, the company says.

However, there are implications that go beyond corporate malfeasance and more in the field of cultural changes that an intelligent camera equipped with AI introduces to aspects such as interfamilial espionage, as technology columnist Farhad Manjoo pointed out this week in his column of the New York Times. in Lighthouse and the new camera of Clips fed by Google's AI. Bringing this type of technology home will inevitably change your relationship with other inhabitants, giving you the ability to follow more closely the comings and goings of your family and use software to analyze in depth the habits of your spouse or children in ways that perhaps you I never thought possible. With this new power comes the responsibility to use it in ways that do not cross the line, and that is a serious consideration for each consumer.
If you are thinking about buying a smart camera for your home, you should ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. If you are concerned about the safety of your home, you should probably buy a Nest Cam IQ outdoor model or something more commercial and robust, and not the Lighthouse, which is not water resistant and can not be easily mounted outside of your home. There is also the question of what it is you are trying to capture on video, or monitor for the case. If you are only interested in monitoring a pet when you are away, Petcube is probably a better and cheaper option.
The Lighthouse camera seems to be better designed for parents who own houses or apartments with children and who depend on several daily or weekly tasks carried out by friends, family or paid professionals, such as dog walkers, housewives, etc. (In other words, the wealthy Silicon Valley types, to start at least). The facial and ping recognition system works best if there are many people entering and leaving the part of the house that the camera aims at, such as the living room or the front hall, for example.
Lighthouse seems to be better designed for parents with large houses and children
It also seems very useful if you have an elderly father or grandfather who lives alone and would like to have peace of mind knowing that you can receive alerts if the camera does not seem to move for the first but many hours in the morning.
Tranquility is an interesting concept in this context. Most security cameras are more successful in providing the knowledge that you may not be able to prevent something bad from happening, but that, at a minimum, you will be notified immediately or a video record saved online will be saved. For that, Lighthouse, with its ping system and advanced artificial intelligence functions, seems particularly powerful, especially considering how it can be customized according to your specific lifestyle needs.
Therefore, if you do not yet have a number of Nest or Google hardware products and you have a strong interest in using artificial intelligence features to track your children, Lighthouse seems like a safe purchase that should only be smarter with the weather. , of course, you can keep up with Google, Amazon and others.


Verge Score

Good material
Sophisticated artificial intelligence functions work as advertised
The software supports multiple cameras connected to each other through the mobile application
You can differentiate between pets and people

Bad things
Expensive and requires paying for the service in the cloud
The camera can not rotate and is not compatible with digital zoom
AI functions only work well if you manually help train the software

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