Conspiracy theorists and other paranoid types, take note: Toshiba is in the early stages of testing a facial recognition system for cars.
Such a system could have a number of uses--many of them fantastic. The Japanese electronics manufacturer says the technology will allow drivers to communicate with their cars via facial signals, freeing them from the distraction of fiddling with knobs and touch-screens to adjust air-conditioners and such. (We're sure there are instances where blinking to change the radio station would be better than speaking to voice-recognition software...although at the moment we can't think of any.) The system will also detect when drivers are drowsy, alerting them to pull over. Those two functions alone could save thousands of lives.
We also think Toshiba's technology could serve anti-theft purposes (if that's not you behind the wheel, the car ain't budging) and to automatically adjust seats, mirrors, and the like to fit your individual preferences. However, we also know this falls awfully close to Big Brother territory, which is bound to make some folks uncomfortable. Our condolences.
No plans for widespread deployment of the in-dash technology have been announced, but the company's facial-recognition software for computers has been around for a while, so it's probably just a matter of Toshiba tweaking the hardware. In other words: expect it soon.
We're going to curl up with a Dan Brown novel and wait for government agents to take us away. Again.