This Is How A Robot Sees You: Exploring Machine Vision's Eerie Aesthetic

<p>We&#8217;re surrounded by algorithms watching our every move. But just what are they seeing?</p>

When you got on the train to work this morning, you were being watched. At the supermarket, you’re being watched as you pick out your fruits and veggies. Driving home in your car, your every move is being tracked. Not to sound paranoid here, but it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that we’re being watched everywhere we go. Not just by the people around us or by the CCTV cameras we’ve all grown so used to, but increasingly, by the machines that serve us and surround us.

We all know the algorithms are out there analyzing us, casting their impersonal gaze over everything from traffic jams to tracking people’s faces on TV. And with things like self-driving cars and smart refrigerators about to be in every home, there’s only going to me more “eyes” turned our way as our world becomes a panopticon. But what exactly do these machines see?

Director/designer Timo Arnall—who’s not unfamiliar with exploring the hidden aesthetics of technology in our urban environments after light painting wifi networks—has created a compilation video called Robot readable world. Using found “machine-vision” footage from YouTube to explore what he calls “the aesthetics of the robot eye,” Arnall captures the vantage point of that unseen but all-seeing software that monitors us, looking for patterns and irregularities, silently analyzing our comings and goings. The videos—from footage of car parks to pedestrians—he used are listed on the Vimeo page.

It’s kind of creepy, but at least the aesthetic consists of bright-colored rectangles, squares, ellipses, arrows and squiggly lines—if it was the red cyborg vision of Arnie’s T-800 then we’d all be screwed.