After virtual reality, the founder of Oculus wants to monitor the border between Mexico and the United States
The founder of Oculus VR, specializing in virtual reality, has created a new company. Its purpose is to monitor immigration at the border between the United States and Mexico, using artificial intelligence.
Neither concrete nor barbed wire but high-precision cameras, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. This is what Anduril, Palmer Luckey’s new company, plans to monitor the border between Mexico and the United States. This “virtual wall” project was revealed in June 2017. He has since taken the next step, according to a lengthy Wired magazine article published Monday.
Named Lattice, the project is currently in the testing phase for the customs services of the southern city of San Diego, California. In ten weeks of experimentation, the system has contributed to the interception of 55 people trying to cross the border and the seizure of 445 kilos of drugs. Eventually, the entrepreneur hopes to seduce the White House and the Pentagon with his project.
Anduril places cameras on 10-meter-high poles that continuously film the border. A visual recognition system is able to distinguish humans, animals, vehicles and objects. Thus, when an individual passes through the monitored area, he is detected immediately: a notification then alerts the border guards. Equipped with a virtual reality headset, they can observe the area in real time. The screen provides information about the elements of the image such as “79% HUMAN” or “86% ANIMAL”. This is the software’s confidence index as to the nature of what it is observing.
Palmer Luckey, controversies and controversial endorsements
Anduril relies on the low cost of its solution to seduce its customers. “A concrete structure 9 meters high […] costs $24.5 million per mile [1,6 kilomètre environ, NDLR]”, says Will Hurd, former CIA agent, Republican representative from Texas, a state bordering Mexico. “A smart wall, a system like the one proposed by Anduril, costs about half a million dollars per mile”.
The construction of a wall on the southern border of the United States was a campaign promise of Donald Trump. This project is strongly criticized by Democratic elected officials and human rights associations, already scalded by the US president’s hard line on immigration. During an official visit by Donald Trump last March, Jerry Brown, Democratic governor of California had published an open letter and recalled that the prosperity of his state had not been built on “retreat, quite the contrary”, but thanks to openness to “immigrants and innovators from all over the world. In California, we are more attached to bridges than walls”.
Palmer Luckey founded Oculus VR in 2012. This company, one of the first to offer a virtual reality headset for the general public, was acquired by Facebook for two billion dollars in 2014. However, the relationship between Palmer Luckey and the social network quickly deteriorated. The young entrepreneur has suffered several controversies regarding his political commitments. In particular, he secretly financed a pro-Donald Trump collective, which sometimes violently attacked Hillary Clinton on social networks. He also participated to the tune of 100,000 dollars at the inauguration of the US President. Gradually, Palmer Luckey stepped back. He finally left Facebook in March 2017.
With his new company, the young man has already managed to raise more than $ 58 million. Its main investor is the Founders Fund, an investment fund headed by Peter Thiel. The former Paypal boss, and current Facebook board member, has long been showing his support for Donald Trump. His company Palantir, a firm controversial for its collaboration with the NSA, the CIA and the FBI in the field of data analysis, has also decided to support Palmer Luckey’s new project.