Maryland Tech: Protecting your computer screen from the "shoulder surfers"
Every once in a while, I get to see -- and sometimes write about -- a fascinating new product before the consumer masses get to it. It's one of the cool perks of being a journalist, really.
That happened to me recently, when Bill Anderson (left) of Oculis Labs Inc., in Owings Mills, gave me and some colleagues here at The Baltimore Sun a demo of his new software: "Chameleon" and "PrivateEye." (Here's my full story on how he launched his company and came up with the idea.)
Here's what Chameleon does: it uses sophisticated gaze-tracking technology to dynamically render the words and images on a computer monitor so that only the authorized user can read them. It's accurate down to about one single character. If someone is peeking over your shoulder (aka "shoulder surfing"), all they will see is dummy text that is constantly changing. You, the user, will be able to read the text you choose to read wherever your eyes wander on the screen.
I tried reading the documents -- a Word and an Excel document -- over Anderson's shoulder, and I could not. I had no idea where his eyes were and the text was constantly changing on me.
For now, big government agencies involved in military/intelligence operations are the most likely ideal customers because it requires some special hardware (the gaze-tracking equipment), and the price tag ain't cheap. Anderson bills Chameleon as a way for people to protect their monitors, which can be critical in battlefield and intelligence operations, where super-spies with powerful telephoto lenses can peer over your shoulder from a very long ways away.
For consumers, there's a lighter-weight version, PrivateEye. Here's what that does: It taps into your computer's Web cam (that's the only hardware you need) and uses face-detection technology so that your computer knows when you turn away from the screen. As soon as you turn away, the screen softly blurs. Ideal for office situations where privacy of information is paramount, such as medical settings, financial institutions, law firms, etc.
Anderson gave us a tour of the software and we shot some video. Check it out below!
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