To address the current social and racial mayhem occuring in the United States, Artificial Intelligence is being used to identify political symbols. VizPol is an app developed by Columbia University that uses machine learning to identify obscure symbols used by right and left-leaning political groups. VizPol’s computer vision algorithm takes inputs such as photo images, passes the data through a model, and produces output in the form of recognition, detection, and identification of political symbols.
A user of VizPol simply uses their phone to take a picture of an armband, T-shirt, tattoo, or anything with a logo, and the app will report the symbol’s background and meaning to the user. With the app, users can identify supporters that may belong to Antifa, the “Boogaloo Bois”, or other extremist factions.
Ishaan Jhaveri, one of the team developers, says that the inspiration for creating VizPol came from Merlin Bird ID; a bird watching app. Currently, VizPol can identify 52 political symbols in its beta-testing process.
The application of AI technology to create such a product holds promising benefits. In many cases, VizPol can be leveraged towards increasing civilian safety. If a user feels uncomfortable or suspects the danger that a nearby individual poses by flaunting an unknown logo, they can merely pull out their phone to find out more information.
In its design, there is no way that VizPol tries to suppress free speech or political ideology, but clears the scene for users to recognize obscure political factions. With tension levels running high in America after the death of an unarmed African American man, George Floyd, it is sure that users will make use of VizPol to identify racism, politics, and social symbols that before went unnoticed.