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Would You Trust Robots with Your Passport?

'Sensible Data' is a project by Martin Hertig that makes you a custom algorithmic passport—and leaks it, too.
Images courtesy the artist

Slicing onions; sorting things alphabetically; going to the DMV—some things are just better automated. Bolstering the case for why robots should be in charge of getting us new passports is Sensible Data, the interactive thesis project from ECAL student Martin Hertig. In it, three independent machines cultivate a new kind of passport from personal data. "Take a picture of yourself and a machine will draw your portrait. Send an email and an algorithm will judge your age, gender and beauty. By pressing a dubious button, you can get a nice confirmation stamp. Thank you for your contribution!" the project cheekily states.


Appearing this past Friday on CreativeApplications.NetSensible Data transforms both information you give—and information it takes from you—into a new artwork. According to its creators, it works in three steps:

Step 1, the portrait: The photo taken with the iPad is automatically synchronized to the Pi using Dropbox. A python script transforms the photo to a line drawing using opencv and send the lines to the drawing machine.

Step 2, analyzing the face: When receiving an email, the Pi sends the previously taken image to an online service called Rekognition. Their machine learning algorithm detects the beauty in percent, mood, age and gender of a person. This information is then stored in a database and stamped on the passport letter by letter by the laser-cut stamp-wheel. (All other mechanical parts and stamps are laser-cut as well)

Step 3, validation stamp: The dubious button is actually a fingerprint scanner. The validation stamp is granted after the fingerprint has been scanned. After some seconds, an email with all the data of a matching person is sent to the user.

The results are then both made available to the participant, and, echoing the way in which much of our online data is out of our control, also "leaked" to another participant at random. So, if getting a passport could be 50 times faster with the help of robots, but your information would be 50% less confidential, would you do it? Check out Sensible Data in action, and let us know in the comments, below:


Sensible Data ECAL/Martin Hertig from ECAL on Vimeo.

Click here to learn more about Sensible Data.


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