The last time I heard the name "RealNetworks" was in 2020 when I was surprised to learn that A) they still exist and B) they got a $2.8 million Payroll Protection Program loan that they did not give back.

But "RealNetworks Military Drone Facial Recognition" was not on my 2023 bingo card:

According to a contract between RealNetworks and the U.S. Air Force, the facial recognition software will be used on small drones as part of special operations missions. [...]

This contract does not describe putting facial recognition software on large Predator and Reaper drones that will make decisions about who to assassinate in a war zone. The contract describes a use-case where teams of special operations soldiers use the facial recognition technology on smaller reconnaissance drones during operations in foreign countries.

But the contract did describe a world where sUAS will be used by America's operators for intelligence and target acquisition. It's possible this software will be used to identify targets, it's just that a different human -- or machine -- will be pulling the trigger. Larger drones identify targets through a combination of high powered cameras and cell phone tracking. They make mistakes all the time.

"Spectacular Optical makes inexpensive eyewear for the Third World, and missile guidance systems for NATO. We also make Videodrome."

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7 Responses:

  1. CSL3 says:

    Now, all I can think of is the facial-rec drones failing to load, so the military tries another old-school media player.

  2. me says:

    I assume RealNetworks is probably just a patent holding company now having filed a patent for "identify face like shapes on digital video" or some such in ~1995.

    • Andrew Klossner says:

      According to their Wikipedia article, it's the same company, still run by the founder, Rob Glaser. They got into facial recognition in 2018. Glaser took the company private last December.

      He originally called it Progressive Networks. Its mission was to distribute politically progressive content. I guess they lost sight of their roots.

  3. Michael Dwyer says:

    They still have their name on a building by the stadium in Seattle, but I've never actually seen anyone enter or exit it. Allegedly, they took out the in-office bowling alley a number of years back, and suddenly there was a wave of bars and restaurants with tables made from the old reclaimed lanes.

    I have a beat-up bowling pin that I choose to believe came from there. I originally kept it as a token of the collapse of the 2000s dot-com boom.

    • jwz says:

      I live near what used to be the offices of Pets dot com, which was one of the bubble-one-point-oh casualties, one of the early "but I don't need my kitty litter delivered" companies. They went out of business overnight, and walking by their offices one could see into the vacated cubicle farm -- rows and rows of hastily-vacated desks under harsh fluorescents, nothing remaining except dust, the occasional power cable and an Aeron chair....

      But on every desk, the company mascot beanie baby. That was the one thing that everyone left behind while packing up their pen.

      • Michael Dwyer says:

        Oh, is just the cherry on top of dot-com reclamations: Remember when their sock puppet dog mascot got rebranded for an auto loan company??

        Maybe I'm built a little different, but I would have assumed people would have wanted to take the stuffed animals home. Not necessarily to keep, but maybe to burn them in effigy.

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