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These Creepy Smart Home Sensors Are Straight Out of Black Mirror

LAS VEGAS - I always thought that the terrifying Black Mirror AIs that know everything and anything about you were a bit of an exaggeration. But Panasonic has proven me wrong.

At CES 2019, the company showcased its Human Insight Technology, the coolest and creepiest smart-home tech I've ever seen.

These proof-of-concept devices use cameras and heat sensors to monitor who you are and how you're feeling. In the future, they could use this information to customize your lighting, heat, music, and the rest of your home.

The first (and probably closest to market) is a character sensor, which Panasonic currently has built into a mirror. Stand in front of said mirror, and it immediately identifies and displays your age, gender and heart rate. The company claims it's only wrong 0.001% of the time. For most of the people I saw trying it, it looked pretty spot-on. 

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When this tech hits the market, you probably won't just see it in a mirror. It could live, for example, in a security camera to identify unwelcome guests in your home. I can also see its use in airports, or even retail (goodbye, fake IDs).

Panasonic also had a much more involved display of a stress sensor. To use this, you have to walk across a floor mat where a pathway is outlined for you, with spots labeled for your left and right feet. You occasionally stoop to place your hand on the mat as well.

Using this isn't dignifying in the least, but the results are interesting. At the end of your ordeal, you're given a chart evaluating your physical abilities, including agility, power, balance, flexibility, and core strength, and comparing them to the average score. You're also given an overall rating of your physical ability. I am 940 out of 994, whatever that means.

But the creepiest one by far is the emotion-sensing technology. This could outfit a number of smart devices in the future (including your phone), but it's currently in a chair. Sit down in this chair, and you'll see a map of your current happiness, temperature, stress, and irritation, computed using your expression, temperature, odor, and seat pressure.

The use case here is obvious. Your home could play happy music when you're feeling sad. Your lights could dim to more soothing colors when you're stressed.

These technologies are still in the research and development phase, so there's no release date in sight yet. But I have a feeling that when they hit the market, they're going to change the game.

Photo Credits: Monica Chin/Tom's Guide