Point and Shoot

In 1882, the French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey invented the first portable motion picture camera, which he called the Fusil Photographique, or photographic rifle. Its lightweight, rifle shaped body enabled him to track the movement of birds in flight – the first camera pan – and was capable of exposing 12 images in rapid succession onto a circular gelatin plate.

Since then, there have been numerous camera gun adaptations. The Mark III Hythe Machine Gun Camera, which was modeled after the Lewis automatic machine gun, was used in World War I by the British Royal Flying Corps to measure the accuracy of its aerial gunners during combat simulations. In World War II, trigger activated cameras were installed on aircrafts to record enemy kills. More recently, an array of gun shaped digital cameras has emerged that take advantage of the small form factor of electronic image sensors.

Point and Shoot adds to the discourse of camera guns by introducing a facial detection safety feature, which disables the gun’s image making ability when pointed at a human face.

The algorithm conducting facial detection is known as the Viola-Jones object detection framework, a process through which light and dark regions of an image are compared to a set of classifiers, or filters, which has been trained to identify generalized patterns of light and dark regions commonly found in human faces. The result is a false negative (failing to detect a present face) accuracy rate of less than one percent, and a false positive (detecting a non-present face) accuracy rate of around 40 percent.

By intervening between the human operator’s intention to pull the camera gun’s trigger, and the device’s functionality, Point and Shoot offers a conceptual prototype for the future of firearm safety, where imperfect human judgment/instinct is further mediated by imperfect algorithmic discretion.

Technical Description:

The interactive installation consists of four parts; (1) a Wiimote controller in a plastic gun case which is connected to a Mac mini computer via Bluetooth, (2) a Wi-Fi lens/sensor fixed to the barrel of the gun case which is connected to the computer via Wi-Fi, (3) a computer program conducting facial detection when the trigger of the gun case is pulled, (4) and a monitor displaying the captured image (if no face is detected) or an error message (if a face is detected).