back to article Boffins don bad 1980s fashion to avoid being detected by object-recognizing AI cameras

In a pleasing symmetry, boffins have used machine-learning algorithms to develop a T-shirt design that causes its wearer to evade detection by object-recognition cameras. Brainiacs at Northeastern University, MIT, and IBM Research in the US teamed up to create the 1980s-esque fashion statement, according to a paper quietly …

  1. Notas Badoff

    Psych out the psyche-less?

    Reminds me of the very very early 'success' at recognition of tanks. The day before the big demo to DOD a couple new photos failed. Then they realised they hadn't trained with any photos of tanks in shadows."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Psych out the psyche-less?

      Look at the T-Shirt.

      I may not be right here... but I think it might be the pron filter kicking in.

    2. The First Dave

      Re: Psych out the psyche-less?

      My understanding was that the AI learned to recognise Forests with a tank in front, so when presented with a pic of a tank anywhere else, basically said 'no trees, so not a tank'

      1. J P

        Re: Psych out the psyche-less?

        Pretty sure I've also seen references to early work which successfully identified grainy tanks as Russian and glossy hi definition colour ones as American.

        1. druck Silver badge

          Re: Psych out the psyche-less?

          No, all the pictures of forests with tanks on them were taken on a sunny day, and all the pictures of forests without tanks in them on a cloudy day, so the AI learned the difference between sunny and cloudy forests.

  2. Sampler


    Just don't wear it when crossing the road in front of a tesla...

    1. Oengus

      Re: Great

      If a Tesla can't recognise a truck turning in front of it it won't matter what you are wearing, it isn't going to see a pedestrian. Maybe you will be lucky and the Tesla software will incorrectly classify you as a large inanimate object and see you as an obstacle to avoid...

      1. Drew Scriver

        Re: Great

        I had always assumed that autonomous vehicles would employ a variety of techniques to, like radar as a fallback for image recognition. Radar cannot be blinded by the sun, for instance.

        It's beyond me why that's not a requirement.

        1. Francis Boyle

          Re: Great

          Tesla are famously anti-radar (LIDAR specifically) believing everything can be done by image recognition. It's experiments like this that make many people think they are taking the wrong road there.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Great

            My favoured anti-radar measures don't include Teslas but do include things like the Shrike, ALARM and Sidearm.

            Oh, and LIDAR is not RADAR - one will blind you, the other only sterilise you :-)

            Anon as my previous employer tends to take a dim view of people borrowing company hardware for personal use :-) :-) :-)

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Great

          RADAR specifically, in cars, would create 'RF pollution' if EVERYBODY does it. All of those RADAR systems interfering with one another... and there are other logistic problems with RADAR, like a 'blind spot' directly in front of the antenna, for when the 'pulse going out' switch hasn't turned off yet on the wave guide [to protect front-end components, you have to temporarily short out the input circuit while transmitting the high power pulse]. Additionaly, high power microwaves for long periods of time are bad for fleshies. You use these when cooking in a microwave oven, right?

          But the worst of it is the object resolution. To properly resolve an object or distance that's 10 cm you will more than likely need a "much less than 10cm" wavelength (although phase shift detection MIGHT let you do it, if you like super-sophisticated detectors like that). 10cm is 30Ghz, and it'll only get more expensive (and require higher output power) as wavelength drops.

          And you thought it was bad when running a microwave oven caused your bluetooth and/or wifi devices to temporarily disconnect... imagine a bozillian cars doing the SAME! THING!

          well it's been decades since I did anything with a RADAR system and so the tech has probably improved, but the general principles remain the same

          A 'FLIR' system (plus optical) might be the best choice (assuming it's already part of the package), especially for detecting cars and people. They tend to emit infrared light on their own, too.

      2. cream wobbly
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Great

        Maybe you will be lucky and the Tesla software will incorrectly classify you as a large inanimate object and see you as an obstacle to avoid...

        I don't know where you get the idea that Tezzler's software wants to avoid large inanimate objects. All it does is follow the clearest lane markings. It's a slightly clever lane departure warning feedback system. It's not really engineered for other types of accident avoidance.

        Here's me berating you for not stopping before you got to the unnecessary bit, and there I go and do it. I should've said:

        It's not really engineered.

        There. I'm happy now.

        1. LoPath

          Re: Great

          So I need an outfit with a solid yellow line going all the way up and down it. Got it!

          1. zuckzuckgo

            Re: Great

            Or maybe an outfit with a big red STOP sign printed on it.

            Just walk down the side of the road to cause some AI traffic confusion. Cross the street anywhere you want.

      3. Dal90

        Re: Great

        Tesla if programmed with decent logic:

        Oh my God, there's another car coming into my, er, um...I'll hit this inanimate object over there and the frame and airbags will protect my occupant better than hitting another car.

        Oh my God, there's another car coming into my, er, um...well crap there's a person in my only escape lane so instead of almost assuredly killing him I'll take the hit with the other car on since our crumple zones and air bags should at mean everyone at least survives in the cars.

        1. Cris E

          Re: Great

          Dominic Toretto, programmed with Hollywood logic:

          Oh my God, there's another car coming into my lane. I'll hit this inanimate object over there, bounce up on two wheels, thread between oncoming traffic, drop to four wheels, hit this convenient ramp on the side of the road, fly over five rows of oncoming traffic and land on the proper side of the highway, safe from oncoming baddies.

        2. zuckzuckgo

          Re: Great

          There is not nearly that much intelligence in AI despite the name.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge

            Re: Great

            in some cases, the name should be changed to 'A.S.' i.e. "Artificial Stupidity"

        3. DWRandolph

          Re: Great

          Today's joke is by Ben Mackay

          Officer: Hello, Mr. Kornada. I'm calling to follow up on your recent ethics test.

          Officer: You were asked the classic trolley car problem. You said that you would redirect the trolley to hit one person rather than hitting five. It was your reason for doing so that disturbed us.

          Officer: "It would do less damage to the trolley car."

          Officer: Yes, you are correct, but I really think you're missing the point here.

    2. JohnFen

      Re: Great

      Maybe don't walk in front of a moving car, Tesla or not, anyway?

      1. RLWatkins

        Re: Great

        > Maybe don't walk in front of a moving car, Tesla or not, anyway?

        Be careful.

        In a thread on this site about a self-driving car hitting a pedestrian I suggested that if she'd stepped right into the path of a nearby car driven by a *person* she'd have still gotten hit.

        Got downvoted into oblivion. This is a rough neighborhood.

        1. eldakka

          Re: Great

          Because these new technologies are supposed to be better than a person. They have to be able to avoid everything a human driver could have, and things that a human driver couldn't.

          If they are not better than a human driver, there is no point to them.

          1. JohnFen

            Re: Great

            Agreed, but that incident didn't show that the tech wasn't better than a human, it merely showed that the tech wasn't perfect.

            (I do think it's obvious that the current self-driving tech is far inferior to human drivers, though).

          2. the Jim bloke

            Re: Great

            If they are not better than a human driver, there is no point to them

            The obvious solution for the AI-car-mongers, is to encourage worse human driving

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: Great

              The obvious solution for the AI-car-mongers, is to encourage worse human driving

              All the auto manufacturers already working on that, such as by putting fucking touchscreens in front of the driver.

              1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

                Re: Great

                Doesn't need manufacturers to help out, many drivers show their own... initiative... by sticking their satnav to the windscreen right in front of their face.

                Worse still that's illegal but somehow these morons never seem to get pulled up by traffic cops.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Great

        "Maybe don't walk in front of a moving car, Tesla or not, anyway?"

        Walking in front of a moving car is not a problem. It's all in the timing :-)

        1. GnuTzu

          Re: Great

          Queue video of guy jumping over a fast-moving car:

  3. Alex Read

    Bit surprised it takes the middle bit into consideration so much - it looks as though holding a crate of fruit & veg, obscuring the torso might have the same effect then...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When training the 'AI' on the images, its not really known what its actually using in the image to categorise it. From tests it appears that its usually the texture of the objects that you want to recognise, not the shape. So what the 'AI' really is doing is looking at the clothes, not the person and then not recognising any of the 80s clothes as what humans wear as it wasn't trained with any images containing them.

  4. Khaptain Silver badge

    Large Fruitiness

    If the t-shirt had an image of a large orange on the front with POTUS printed just above, would it be enough to be accepted as being the real Donald Chump ?.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Large Fruitiness

      It’d fool me anyway mr president.

  5. Winkypop Silver badge


    I wear mt T shirt OVER my head.

    Defeats AI every time.

    1. NATTtrash

      Re: Easy

      All rubbish! It has just been Halloween. Enough home made solutions there, no need for big research programmes. This was all done for just some pieces of candy...


  6. redpawn

    The bigger problem at airports...

    The staff behind the counters seem to have trouble recognizing humans trying to get their attention. When they do, frequently they don't treat them like fellow humans in any case.

    1. BGatez

      Re: The bigger problem at airports...

      Not only airports, covers even phone support

    2. rsole

      Re: The bigger problem at airports...

      You are incorrect, they are recognising them as human and choosing to ignore them.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I always knew

    That global hypercolour and best company were the epitome of cool and it’s good that the computers get it too.

    1. Steve K

      Re: I always knew

      I remember them well!

      You can still get similar T-shirts on Amazon

  8. Blofeld's Cat

    Er ...

    "... bad 1980s fashion ..."

    On that basis I suspect that I may be "invisible" for pretty much all of the time.

    It's the corduroy one with wide lapels and the psychedelic kipper tie in a pocket.

    1. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: Er ...

      kipper tie?

      Yes please, milk and two sugars.

      1. Tom 7

        Re: Er ...

        And dont forget to wash your hands in the buffalo after going to the loo.

      2. ici.chacal

        Re: Er ...

        Shirley you meant to say "Ar, milk an' tao sugars please, moight"

    2. Mark 85

      Re: Er ...

      So... bring back the '80's fashions then. I wonder what effect that some the 60's/70's fashions like paisley would have. Down side... we'd all have to learn to say things like "far out man".....

  9. Chris G

    I wonder, how would an AI person detector work with confusing images from a hand held projector. I have no idea what kind of range one would work at but it might be interesting to test.

  10. sad_loser

    razzle dazzle

    you wonder whether they thought of this

    1. caffeine addict

      Re: razzle dazzle

      Razzle camouflage would be very different.

      And probably largely useless unless you wanted to hide in the seedier parts of the newsagents...

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: razzle dazzle

        It might cause the AI to classify the whole image as porn, and thus prevent access so as not to upset any humans that might be monitoring the feed.

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: razzle dazzle

      So, the t-shirt should be made out of material intended for upholstering sofas?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: razzle dazzle

      Actually there's already been some work in that direction already:

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a T-shirt that fools AI software into not detecting and classifying the wearer as a person

    To be made illegal as soon as policing gets fully outsourced to so-called "AI". First at the airports, then at railway stations, pubs and clubs, then at all public spaces. You want to bet? :(

    1. Blofeld's Cat
      Big Brother

      Re: a T-shirt that fools AI software into not detecting and classifying the wearer as a person

      To be made illegal as soon as policing gets fully outsourced to so-called "AI".

      Probably already covered by:

      "Walking in a loud shirt in a built-up area during the hours of darkness."

      Not the Nine O' Clock News - Constable Savage

  12. 5c0tt

    how will ethics evolve in facial recognition?

    Very interesting article, thank you. It’s a topic I find really interesting and covered recently in my blog (actually just yesterday I uploaded a video of me wearing my anti-tech clothing too). This kind of solution works much better than tinfoil hats and Halloween masks.

    Joking aside interested in looking for companies with strong ethics in this space, like the one mentioned here and more companies working in anti-tech clothing research.

    I will be following your thoughts on this topic now and happy to share thoughts/ideas.


  13. Sgt_Oddball
    Paris Hilton


    It turns 'hot dog' into 'not hot dog' then?

    I do wonder if these can also be fooled by the simple use of a bight light?

    Enquiring minds and all that.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: So....

      Thanks for introducing me to a new word :)

      "In geography, a bight is a bend or curve in a coastline, river, or other geographical feature. It typically indicates a large, open bay, often only slightly receding. It is distinguished from a sound by being shallower."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Light Dawns

        I always wondered what German Bight in the shipping forecast referred to (specifically the "bight" bit - I understood what the areas were...). Now I know.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So....

        You never listened to the Radio 4 shipping forecast then.

        Dogger, Fisher, German Bight...

    2. Sgt_Oddball

      Re: So....

      The joys of trying to type this out on a phone. One of these days I'll proof read my own of these days.

      1. Aussie Doc

        Re: So....

        The joys of phones and auto-correct means you end up typing words you didn't Nintendo.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    take my money

    and give me digital camo clothes

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a crazy idea

    How about a shirt that has a huge QR code that tricks the surveillance system into visiting a web site that then dumps a metric butt ton of trojans and stuff on it?

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: I have a crazy idea

      That's fucking brilliant.

      Of course, you could also generate a QR code for Amazon page selling Orwell books. Or, if you want to be efficient, and have one QR shirt that fucks with both AI and nosy people -- the original image from

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: I have a crazy idea

        or a QRickRoll

    2. Scott 53

      Re: I have a crazy idea

      A "Little Bobby Tables" QR code?

    3. Clunking Fist

      Re: I have a crazy idea

      "visiting a web site that then dumps a metric trojan ton of butts and stuff on it?"


  16. Tom 7

    Dont be surprised when the US smart bomb your high st

    when a couple of students in Che G tshirts set off a panic over the pond.

  17. iron Silver badge

    At last, some ethical AI researchers! Have a pint.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At last, some ethical AI researchers

      or the same ones, hedging the bets :)

      or ethical ones, hoping to be acquired by google... no, they would NEVER think of that!

  18. caffeine addict

    I'm surprised it recognised either of them, considering how blurry their faces are.

    1. Chris G

      @ caffeine addict

      You may have hit on the answer, instead of the current trend of having your face bloated with Botox, everyone could have face blurring surgery.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        I remember a Judge Dredd story back in the mists of time where there was a fashion for surgery that made your face look like a smiley.

        Of course this means that criminals can't be identified - so people were forced to have barcodes tattooed on their foreheads

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Little Bobby Tables

    I prefer the Injection Attack.

    Remember to sanitize your inputs.

  20. phuzz Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    All these comments and so not a single mention of Willam Gibson's "ugly t-shirt".

    It was a plot point in his book Zero History published in 2010, and was described as a very ugly t-shirt, with a deformed face like pattern, which would cause CCTV cameras to stop recording when they detected it. (This was implied to be some sort of collusion between the manufacturers of the facial recognition system and the deep state). Gibson says that the idea actually came from Bruce Stirling.

    “So ugly that digital cameras forget they’ve seen it.”

    “Cameras can see it. The surveillance cameras can all see it, but then they forget they’ve seen it.”


    “Because their architecture tells them to forget it, and anyone who’s wearing it as well. They forget the figure wearing the ugly T-shirt. Forget the head atop it, the legs below, feet, arms, hands. It compels erasure. That which the camera sees, bearing the sigil, it deletes from the recalled image. Though only if you ask it to show you the image. So there’s no suspicious busy-ness to be noticed. If you ask for June 7, camera 53, it retrieves what it saw. In the act of retrieval, the sigil, and the human form bearing it, cease to be represented. By virtue of deep architecture. Gentlemen’s agreement."

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      You could try the same thing with "FNORD" written in large letters on it.

      Remember, if you can't see the fnords, they won't hurt you...

    2. soaklord

      Thank you!!!

      Can't believe I had to scroll down this far to see the Gibson reference. Was worried I'd have to go get it myself and post it. I *really* miss the glee of seeing a Cayce Pollard plot piece become reality after it was published. About time this one was realized.

  21. Danny 2

    Face paint / IR led glasses

    I was an activist for a bit. There was one protest where everyone wore identical face paint, mainly reflective white. The arresting cops couldn't identify the protesters in court, because they were all identical, so no convictions. I note that the Hong Kong face mask protesters were mixing with Hong Kong trick and treaters.

    To avoid all CCTV, yet remain inconspicuous to humans, we later put IR leds into £1 glasses to dazzle the cameras.

  22. iowe_iowe

    I like the idea of maintaining anonymity from all the cameras out there, but I'm not completely sure why. Probably because we don't know why, and who's doing it?

    1. JohnFen

      I'm interested in evading this type of surveillance (as well as most others) for one simple reason -- Big Data is a thing that exists.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh, you know... when private companies are doing it in what you might have thought were public spaces with little oversight

  23. RunawayLoop

    Waiting for someone to build a QR code with some sort of embedded instruction(s) that can crash surveillance cams

  24. the Jim bloke

    How about..

    they put this on

    a hat..

  25. darklord

    it appears at a certain distance it didn't work as the pics clearly show a person being detected at some point. !

  26. Chairman of the Bored

    Sometimes adversarial patterns work on humans, too

    I have a red baseball cap emblazoned with the word


    No T of course. The orange one's supporters look puzzled for a second, think I'm one of them, and smile a little hesitantly. The Dems look at at, do a double take, and smile hesitantly. So I'm flying under everyone's radar and bringing somewhat good cheer to all...

  27. spold Silver badge


    An established "technology" - see

    I've purchased a few T-shirts with this pattern on them (they are easy to find), and spent 6 months on business trips in China and never got recognized once! People just called me the white devil/ old foreigner with the crazy t-shirt.

    Now the downfall of these technologies is that it is pretty simple for the authorities just to lock up all the people with the funny clothing.

  28. Jake Maverick

    where can i buy one?

  29. Dal66

    Why does this newspaper call scientists and generally anyone in technical profession boffin or boffins. And you use it all the time, what the hell is the matter with you? If you feel so feel you need to be abusive about their profession or professionns, why do you feel compelled to report their scientific or technical findings?

    Honestly, grow up.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge


      It's a term of endearment. It's a note of approval.


  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FYI you can buy your own AI invisibility shirt here:

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